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Full text of "Stringtown on the pike : a tale of northenmost Kentucky"

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THE UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

LIBRARY 




THE WILMER COLLECTION 

OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 

PRESENTED BY 

RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 



^ILMJER COLLECTION 









Digitized by the Internet Archive ► 
in 2010 with funding from 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/stringtownonpikeOOIIoy 




CfHE ^vas as bright as a ivilJ red rose ; 
^ She ^vas as fair as a lily that groRus 



In Palestine ' 



Stringto wn 

On the Pike 

A Tale of Northernmost Kentucky 



By 

John Uri Lloyd 

Author of ** Etidorhpa," etc. 



\ 



With Illustrations 



New York 

Dodd, Mead and Company 

1900 



Copyright, igoo 
By DoDD, Mead and Company 

All rights reser'ved 



UNIVERSITY PRESS JOHN WILSON 

AND SON • CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A. 



Contents 



Page 

Stringtown on the Pike i 

Chapter 

I. The Vision in the Moonlight 4 

II. Cupe's Story and the Omen 12 

III. The Lost Deed 24 

IV. The "Corn Bug" curses the Parson . . 31 
V. Judge Elford's Decision 35 

VI. The Dilemma of the <' Corn Bug "... 41 

VII. <'The Best of the Devil and the Law too" 48 

VIII. The Story of the Colonel 53 

IX. The Story of the Parson . . ... 66 

X. The Fearful Storm of New Year's Eve, 1863 76 

XI. Into the Storm passed the Minister ... 81 

XII. " Look out fo' the Red-Head Boy "... 90 

XIII. The Arrest of Cupe 94 

XIV. Court Day . 99 

XV. Stringtown Jail 103 

XVI. Cupe in Jail 108 

XVII. " Too slow fo' a Coon an' too fast fo' a 

Possum " 116 

XVIII. The Trial of Cupe 120 

XIX. The Right of Clergy 130 

XX. Judge Elford ... = ,. 137 

iii 



603015 



Contents 

Chapter Page 
XXI. Why the Honey Bee don't suck Red 

Clover 140 

XXII. '< God made de Sign " 149 

XXIII. Susie is Lost 153 

XXIV. Cupe's Advice to his Dog 156 

XXV. The Haunted Hollow 159 

XXVI. Despondent Stringtown 170 

XXVII. "Red-Head" 173 

XXVIII. Spirits 182 

XXIX. Cupe's Story of the Past . . . : . 185 

XXX. CupE purchases his Wife 195 

XXXI. "A Fearful Sign" 200 

XXXII. The Spirits affect Dinah 204 

XXXIII. Old Jew Mose and Sammy Drew . . . 210 

XXXIV. The Village Circle of Stringtown . . 213 
XXXV. The Love-Song of the Rebel Soldier . 217 

XXXVI. "Dinah, Cupe mus' leave de Cabin" . 222 

XXXVII. Red-Head, Captive 228 

XXXVIII. Return of the Refugees 232 

XXXIX. Cupe's Plea for Susie's Name .... 236 

XL. The Fearful African Ordeal Test . . 246 

XLI. The Stringtown School 252 

XLII. Susie's Introduction to the Stringtown 

School 257 

XLIII. The Challenge of Red-Head .... 261 
XLIV. Red-Head's Story of the Feud . . . 265 
XLV. "Tell me, Jennie, tell me what it is" 274 
XLVI. " Strange Sensation that, the Begin- 
ning of Love" . 279 

iv 



Contents 

Chapter Page 

XLVII. The Voice of the Night 284 

XLVIII. The Weird Form against the Sky . . . 289 

XLIX. Susie, Red-Head, and Samuel Drew . . . 293 

L. Cupe's Threat 301 

LI. The Magic Mirror 306 

LII. My Second Journey over a Path I never 

YET had Trod 318 

LIII. "Never, unless Duty Calls, shall I return 

TO Stringtown" 324 

LIV. Farewell to Susie 329 

LV. Professor Samuel Drew ....... 333 

LVI. The Stringtown Poison Case 337 

LVIl. Susie Pleads for Red-Head 341 

LVin. "Pow'ful Interestin' Story" (i John, Hi.). 351 
LIX. "More lives than one must go if Red- 
Head dies " 359 

LX. Trouble in Stringtown County Court . 361 

LXI. Susie, Red-Head, and Myself Again . . . 366 

LXII. "The Feud is over, Holcomb" .... 371 

LXni. A Strange Love-Story 382 

LXIV. "I came to say Farewell" 390 

LXV. "You have fought and I have loved" . 395 

LXVL "To WHAT has Ambition led?". . . . 405 

LXVn. The Music and the Voice die out forever 409 



Illustrations 



Susie. Dranjon by Corinne C. Trimble Frontispiece 

" She was as bright as a wild red rose ; 
She was as fair as a lily that grows 
In Palestine." 

Page 

Bloody Hollow. " In this silent dell I now lay alone " . 6 

The Strlngtown Grocery where the Village Circle met . . 54 

The abandoned Stringtown Schoolhouse n 6 

" Where once stood a battery of brass field guns " . . . 234 

" I bade all my Stringtown friends good-bye " . . . • 2S6 

" I love the dust of that old pike " .... ... 362 

" Where cluster others who live to love, and pray and die in 

Nazareth" 402 

*^* The Kentucky photographic scenes are by 
Mrs. John Uri Lloyd 



Stringtown on the Pike 



¥- 



MY name is Samuel Drew, and I am now professor 
of chemistry in the University on the Hill. When 
I think of my boyhood, memories of the Kentucky pike 
arise, and I recall the experiences of Sammy Drew, a 
barefooted child. The boy who, in August's heat, be- 
tween noonday and mid-afternoon, dared to walk bare- 
footed upon that road, raised his feet quickly. I know 
whereof I speak, for I often relieved my blistering soles 
by slipping aside into the weed-lined by-paths, preferring 
them, even if they passed near the honey-locust tree, 
under which danger lurked in the great brown thorns 
that always menace the barefooted boy of Kentucky. 
That pike is yet vivid to memory. Again I see the dust 
of bygone times. Again the sun's fierce rays force mc 
to greater laziness. Often I seek a shade tree at the 
roadside, there to find the grassy brink of a grateful 
spring and, leaning over the sward, bury my face in the 
hard limestone water, drinking deep and long. Then, 
thoroughly content, I sit on the overhanging sod in the 
shadow of the tree, and spatter the cool water with my 
toes, bathing a stone-bruise in the very fount from which 
I drank. With nose-tip close to the water's surface, I 
eye the flitting cloud shadows, scan the reflected tan- 
freckled face, and watch the water-bugs and crawfish as. 
deep in the limpid pool, they stir the sand in the vein's 
I I 



Stringtown on the Pike 

mouth. Finally I turn upon my back and gaze into 
space, dreaming of nothing, thinking of nothing. 

From earliest school-days chemistry excited my keen- 
est interest. When but a child I sat absorbed during 
the experiments made by the teacher while he instructed 
the advanced class — the class in chemistry — of our 
country school. By chance I finally obtained a copy of 
" Comstock's Chemistry," and day by day kept abreast 
with the students who recited in that subtle science. 

Either luck or fate made a chemist of me, — luck, be- 
cause the subject chanced to be taught in my room ; or 
fate, because " what is to be will be." I could not carry 
a rule in " Brown's Grammar " from one day to another, 
and I still detest the word " grammar " because of those 
twenty-six artificial rules. If I committed to memory 
some portions of history, in a week thereafter I mixed 
the incidents, unless they were connected with something 
of chemical significance. I could not have remembered 
from day to day whether Gustavus Adolphus fought in 
the War of the Roses or conducted the Thirty Years' 
conflict. Of everything but chemistry my head seemed 
vacant. All else slipped through as a wind-struck fog 
flies through a leafless woodland. The result was that, 
though other subjects filtered out of my brain as through 
a sieve, chemistry remained securely caught by the mind 
meshes. I should add, however, that historical events 
connected with the enticing science remained, as, under 
similar conditions, did mathematical signs and formulae. 
Chemistiy served as a nucleus of attachment. My one- 
sided mind caught the chemistry of a subject and bound 
thereto or blended therewith all connected matters, as 
alcohol blends ether and water. The teacher scolded 
me often in the kindness of severity for my indifference 

2 



Stringtown on the Pike 

to other subjects. I was one of the blockheads ; at least 
he seemed to regard me as such, not appearing to know 
anything of my one talent. The little boys of my row 
each learned something concerning everything, as do all 
mediocre brains, and one by one passed beyond me; and 
I, in humiliation, sat conspicuous among younger chil- 
dren, absorbed in the one unreached study that was des- 
tined in after years to wreck my life. Chemistry ! 
Would to God I could blot out the word ! 



CHAPTER I 

THE VISION IN THE MOONLIGHT 

RETURNING unexpectedly to my little home one 
Saturday afternoon, I found Professor Drake, the 
village school-teacher, in conversation with my mother. 
Before my presence was noticed — for, being barefooted, 
my step was noiseless — I caught the fragment of a sen- 
tence : " It is painful to be forced to tell a mother these 
facts about her son, but duty compels me to say that I 
despair of teaching him." Then seeing me, he paused 
and said something about continuing the subject at an- 
other time. Slow as I was in some respects, his words 
needed no interpretation. My cheek burned in humili- 
ation, my heart beat violently ; for it is not pleasant to 
one mentally incapacitated to hear the fact stated, and, 
less still, for one who loved his mother as intensely as I 
did, to realise that the most painful part of her life of de- 
voted privation was small in comparison with the distress 
that resulted from my stupidity. I was indignant, and 
felt tempted to return and upbraid the teacher, for were 
not his words the immediate cause of my mother's sor- 
row ? Her face was expressive of despair. But the 
facts were on the pedagogue's side ; and, moreover, I 
appreciated that he, too, grieved over my misfortune. 
I fled from the house and aimlessly moved on, medi- 
tating, miserable. I climbed the back fence into the 

4 



The Vision in the Moonlight 

woodland pasture, upon which our little garden jutted, 
and after crossing it wandered away from Stringtown, I 
cared not whither. An hour passed, and my anger and 
mortification subsided. I ceased to think of the inci- 
dent ; indeed, no record remained to remind my now 
dormant intellect of the fact that I existed. My mind 
had become as unconscious of all external things as it 
was of inherent emotions. My limbs moved irrespon- 
sively and my body automatically passed along. I 
fancy that I had assumed the condition of a brute of 
the lower class or a creature like the turtle, the differ- 
ence being that in my brain an intellectual spark rested, 
and through it the drowsy I of self could be excited into 
consciousness, while the lethargic mind of the turtle 
rests irredeemably in the unreachable shadows without. 
The great distinction between man and brute is that 
man knows he is man, and the brute knows nothing of 
himself. I existed and was awake, it is true, but in this 
trance that possessed me knew nothing of external 
things. 

The sun sank slowly toward the distant tree-tops, 
and still I wandered without method. The village dis- 
appeared behind me, but, regardless of my whereabouts, 
I strolled dreamfully along until at last I stumbled over 
an inequality in the grass. And as the flash shoots 
upward when a spark touches a fibre of gun-cotton, so 
the sudden fall caused my mind to dart back into self- 
consciousness. The instant I fell I became aware of 
the fact that never before had I ventured into the 
present locality. I next observed a shadow that the 
sinking sun seemed to throw toward me. A long 
shadow upon the hill behind which he was disappearing, 
stretching toward me, took the form of a gigantic cross, 
the apex reaching to and touching the mound beside me. 



Stringtown on the Pike 

This did not, at the instant, cause me the least concern; 
a shadow is but a shadow. I raised my eyes to seek 
the object that broke the ray of sunshine, and, child that 
I was, marvelled then at the miracle ; for smooth, as if 
planed by hand, the top of the hill stretched across my 
field of vision ; there was no intervening object between 
the sun and me. The face of the day king, unmarked 
by tree or shrub, shone clear and untarnished over a 
horizontal ridge-summit that was fenceless, objectless, 
as straight as a ruler. Stretching down the barren hill- 
side, came those rays straight into my face ; and down 
that smooth hillside projected toward me, as if it had an 
intent in thus pointing at myself, the great grey shadow 
lay sharp, and as still as if carved in stone — an effect 
without a cause — and just beyond its tip I lay trembling. 
I now realised fully my location. He who heeded 
not the warning to avoid that spot bred trouble for his 
future. Never before had village boy dared to press the 
grass where I reclined. Never before had child beheld 
either sunshine or shadow from the place I occupied, — 
a spot, it was said, the Indians shunned because of its 
evil influence on him involved in its occult mazes. In 
the tradition of the early settlers an Indian maiden had 
here met a tragic death ; and we knew that it was here 
that the father of the " Corn Bug " (so nicknamed be- 
cause of his propensity for the juice of the corn) had 
been murdered. In mature life no intelligent person 
believes ghost stories or these absurd Indian traditions ; 
tales that cluster around every precinct of our land and 
find resting place in the minds of children and of ignorant 
people. But to us children, and to the negroes with 
whom we were so intimate, that place was accursed, and 
would so have been held by us, even in the face of any 
testimony to the contrary. Although the soil was rich, 

6 



m 




cq 



The Vision in the Moonlight 

bushes of sassafras and persimmons — God's emissaries 
for worn-out grounds too poor for other plant existence 
— refused to grow on or near the spot. In this 
silent dell of the " dark and bloody ground," that 
from a distance we children, venturing cautiously, 
had once timidly approached, whisperingly pointed to, 
and then, huddled together, ran from as if from Satan, 
I now lay alone. My heart throbbed and thumped, 
my flesh quivered at I knew not what, my limbs 
refused to move ; and the face of the great sun, clear 
as crystal and bright as molten silver, sank slowly 
in the west. Simultaneously the weird earth shadow, 
that singular grey cross, fell slowly toward me. I 
watched it lengthen until the distended arms crept over 
my form and enveloped me, and then a quivering play 
of changing sunset-lights spread about the sky, amid 
which at last the upper rim of the sun disappeared, the 
rays flickered ; yet, strangely enough, before twilight 
deepened darkness fell upon me. Whether the shadow 
to which I refer was an object from the material or out- 
side part of life that appeared to my real eyesight, or a 
shade from the inner circle that impressed my percep- 
tive faculties, I shall not presume to say ; the reader 
may form his own conclusions concerning the cause of 
the phenomenon. I report only what I witnessed ; and 
I yet recall vividly the spectral outline of this weird, 
strange shadow, stretching without discernible cause 
down the long, barren hillside. I remember that as I 
lay prostrate on the lone tomb, gazing at the approach- 
ing umbra, I wondered first if it would reach my feet, 
and then, as its apex passed over them, if its great arms 
would engulf me. I remember to have given a sigh of 
relief as the last vestige of the sun was about to disap- 
pear j for I had unconsciously accepted, without think- 

7 



Stringtown on the Pike 

ing it out, that should the arms of the grey cross reach 
my body, my Hfe would end with the sinking of the sun 
and the lengthening of the shadow. Then I recollect 
that as the upper rim of the crescent sun sank and 
passed from view, and the final slanting rays bent 
themselves and streamed upward, the arms of the 
cross at the same instant passed over my body, — and 
I recollect nothing more. How long I lay in the dew 
of the blue grass I cannot say, but when I regained 
consciousness it was as if I were awakening from a 
dream. 

It seemed as though I had been possessed of a vision, 
yet no details remained. I had surely experienced the 
knowledge of sweets and sours, sorrow and pain, peace 
and distress, but not of things, thoughts, or sights. A 
black object, wrapped in black paper, has an existence in 
the night, although it cannot be seen ; a fragment of 
platinum foil, thrown on a surface of molten silver, has 
an existence in the light, yet is not to be seen ; a trans- 
parent object in a transparent liquid held between the eye 
and the sun /V, and yet is not perceptible to the sight. 
Thoughts and experiences of my sleeping self had been 
realities, but to my waking self were not real. I had 
lived and died, had passed into other realms and back 
again, and experiencing all, I yet recollected nothing. 
This struck me as more than strange ; but only for an 
instant did I think of the occurrence, for I realised im- 
mediately that I was not now alone. As yet I had not 
opened my eyes ; but as the sleeping child intently 
watched becomes restless, stirs before it awakes, so did 
I feel the presence of some body or spirit other than 
my own. 

Cautiously seeking to discover the person gazing at 
mCj for my nerves were conscious of that piercing eye, 



The Vision in the Moonlight 

I raised myself upon my elbow and peered about, to 
see standing close behind me an Indian girl, tall, erect, 
beautiful. By the light of a full moon I saw her form 
clearly, distinctly, and noted that her head was decorated 
in gaily coloured feathers, and that her dress was made 
of the draped skins of animals. Her bosom was partly 
covered, partly bare; her face and bust together, as 
I now recall the scene, making a picture that might 
serve as an artist's ideal. One hand rested on her side ; 
the fourth finger of the other was placed upon her lip, as 
if, in the language all nations understand, the language 
of signs, she were bidding me be silent ; and thus she 
stood, with elbows extended, gazing before her. She 
made no movement, and, as one entranced, I lay mo- 
tionless at her feet. She seemed to be listening for a 
sound, and to fear that I would move or speak ; but I 
was powerless and could not move. 

Then again I observed a strange phenomenon. The 
graceful position her form unconsciously assumed cast a 
shadow over the earth, on and up and into the clear sky. 
Over the crest of the hill, back toward where the sun 
had sunk, the figure of a gigantic cross high in heaven 
was uplifted, — a perfect cross. The distended elbows 
of the maiden created the two shadow-arms of the weird 
cross, and from behind her, shining through her form as 
through a haze, I saw the rising moon's face. Marvel- 
lous apparition ! The visage of the moon peered at mc 
through her very body, and thrust that shadow over the 
earth and into space beyond. Strange — I remember to 
have thought — strange that when facing the sun I 
should have closed my eyes upon a cross upon the earth, 
and opened them upon an overlying cross in heaven. 
Yet while this query led my wondering thoughts, it did 
not surprise me that the girl's form was translucent ; 

9 



Stringtown on the Pike 

neither did it seem remarkable that I heard, in answer to 
my mind's words, the reply, — 

"Not strange at all. The figure before you was 
present while the sun still shone, but such creations are 
invisible in the sunlight. She it was who absorbed the 
radiance of the sun's rays, and thus permitted the shafts 
of darkness behind her to cast back at the sun the skel- 
eton of that depleted sun-ray. The shadow observed on 
the hillside in the sunlight resulted from the dominating 
power of the shade of darkness behind. To mortals the 
sun prevails over all else, but to other existences shade is 
the reality. She whom you now see is only per- 
ceptible when a person occupies the peculiar position, 
both of body and mind, that you now enjoy ; not every 
one can see what you behold." 

My reverie was at this point suddenly interrupted ; a 
second shadow crossed the moon's face, and I beheld, 
stealthily approaching the girl from behind, an Indian 
with uplifted stone axe. I tried to scream, to move, but 
could not. The smile on the face of the unsuspecting 
girl remained sweetly, wildly beautiful. Behind her 
countenance that other face peering through her own — 
as if the tracing of a saint were thrown before the picture 
of a devil — leered, sinister, desperate, ugly ; and through 
both of them the moon was shining. I tried again to 
warn her of the danger, but could not break the spell 
that bound me ; staring, motionless and powerless, I saw 
the uplifted war-axe of the phantom chief sink deep into 
the black hair that covered her spectral skull. 

Following now a sheep-path along a hillside, now a 
corn-row through the field, now a dry creek-bed, I ran. 
Whether my course led to the right or the left con- 
cerned me not. I only asked to leave that hateful valley 
as far behind as my strength would carry me. Could I 

lO 



The Vision in the Moonlight 

have known the way, I would certainly have fled to my 
home ; but I sped bewildered, and saw no familiar land- 
mark. A sudden rustle of the bushes at my feet caused 
my heart to jump, my steps to halt ; a timid rabbit 
crossed my path, vanishing in the darkness as quickly as 
it had sprung from cover. Again I fled, only to halt, trem- 
bling ; an object, black, of mammoth size, of strange 
shape, appeared before me, and as I stood transfixed the 
monstrous form grew before my eyes, evolved from 
nothing. Floating from out the air, it towered to the very 
heavens above ; and then as suddenly as it had appeared 
did it shrink and assume the familiar form of a black cow. 
She advanced along the path upon which I stood, stead- 
ily and peaceably, possibly ruminating over subjects too 
deep for human cogitation. Quickly it flashed upon my 
mind that to trace back the path the cow had trodden 
would carry me to the barnyard and the home of her 
owner, and acting on the impulse, I fixed my gaze upon 
the moonlit ground and steadily walked along that well- 
defined cow-path. When next I raised my eyes, the 
light of a candle shining through a window gladdened my 
sight ; with rapid step I reached an open doorway, and 
without knocking or even sounding a cry leaped into 
the room. As I made that last spring forward, it seemed 
as though unseen hands clutched my coat-sleeves, as 
though goblins and ghosts threw themselves upon me, as 
though weird arms encircled my form and clutched my 
ankles and feet, and as though superhuman things cried 
and moaned about me. 



II 



CHAPTER II 

cupe's story and the omen 

A DELIGHTFUL sensation came over me as I lay 
in security once more among human beings. 
Only those who have been through experiences such as 
I suffered can appreciate the relief I felt. God help the 
coward ! God pity him who, frightened, lies powerless 
with consciousness intact. Fright blots out all other 
pain ; and he who adds one useless pang to the suffering 
of a terrified creature must answer for that despicable act 
in the hereafter where sins are expiated. 

Exhausted, bleeding, suffering physical pain, and yet 
content, I rested upon the floor, mentally taking note 
of the surroundings. The room was that of a plain log 
house. The floor was very rough, being made of hewn, 
split beech logs, the rounded portion down, the edges 
roughly jointed together. The furniture was of the 
simplest description ; the place was lighted by a single 
candle. A girl and a man occupied the cabin, the latter 
none other than the " Corn Bug ; " and it was evident 
that I had wandered from my course perhaps in a spiral 
out and back again, for the valley in which I saw the 
strange grey cross was, I well knew, but a short distance 
from the rude log house in which I now was sheltered. 
The other occupant of the house was to me unknown : 
a singular little creature, with great eyes and round face 
encircled by wild flowing hair, a curious child who fas- 

12 



Cupe's Story and the Omen 

cinated my gaze despite my pain and terror. The 
silence caused by my strange entrance was at length 
broken by the " Corn Bug." 

" Sammy, what 's the matter ? " he said. 

" I am lost," I answered. 

" Not while you are here." 

" I was scared." 

"Wall," he continued slowly, " thare ain't no bars 
ner catamounts now ; why did n't yo' lie down beside a 
fence er in a briar patch this warm night an' sleep ? " 

*' I was too scared." 

"What scared yo', sonny ? Thare ain't no varmints 
hareabout." 

" I saw something terrible." 

" What war it ? Tell me what yo' saw." 

" I can't," I replied with a shudder. 

" Wha' wa' yo' ? " 

" In Bloody Hollow." 

The look of incredulity passed from his face; he came 
at once to my side, raised me from the floor, led me to 
his own chair, and seated me by the side of the little girl. 

" Cupe," he called out, — " Cupe, yo' lazy nigger, git 
up; the boy 't yo' told me about es here." 

There was a noise overhead, and then through a hole 
in the ceiling appeared two legs, and Cupe began the 
descent of the ladder which led to the cubby hole of the 
attic. 

" What fo' yo' call Cupe, Ma'se ? " 

" The boy, Cupe, the boy 't ye said would come from 
Bloody Holler. Here es the boy." 

The white-headed negro manifested no surprise. 

"I done tole yo' so, Ma'se," he said reflectively; *' I 
knowed he wah com'n' ; de signs nebbah lie, Ma'se ; de 
figgah in de fiah, de hoodoo tracks in de ashes, de tings 

13 



Stringtown on the Pike 

dis nigger saw an' hea'd when de chicken crowed las' 
night fo' midnight, tings what de white man doan know 
nuffin' 'bout, pinted t' de movin' ob de spell. Ma'se, 
tings p'dicted am come. Ole Ma'se, yoah pap, sleep in 
Bloody HoUah an' den he died es Cupe said he would ; de 
gearl sleep in Bloody Hollah, an' now de boy am heah. 
De end ob de spell am nearly come." 

" What air yo' talkin' about, yo' black scoundrel ? " 
muttered the " Corn Bug." 

" Nebbah yo' min', Ma'se, dah ain't no use in bor- 
rowin' troub'l ; nebbah yo' min', Ma'se ; de spell will 
end fo' yo' when de yeah ends, an' den yo' an' ole Cupe 
mus' part." 

" Talk sense, Cupe, talk sense ; I told yo' to come 
down out ov your loft, not because I want any ov youah 
goblin nonsense, nor any ov youah nigger signs, but ter 
tie up the scratches on this youngster's feet ; can't yo' 
see he es tired an' sore an' scared nearly ter death ? 
Move, yo' black rascal, move ! " 

Old Cupe, muttering to himself, obeyed ; he washed 
and bound up my lacerated feet, having first anointed 
them with a sweet-scented soothing ointment made of 
the resin of the sweet-gum tree. 

" Now for his supper," said the " Corn Bug." " Stir 
yourself, Dinah ! " 

Then I noticed another form gather itself, as if 
it were created from the shadows. From the edge 
of the hearth, where, motionless, she had been huddled, 
an old black negro crone arose and silently busied her- 
self arranging my supper, which proved to be simple 
enough, but very sweet to the taste. Then when the 
task was done and the dishes had been removed, she 
slunk back to the shadows, and in the edge of the light- 
flittings, where the seen and the unseen blended, crouched 

14 



Cupe's Story and the Omen 

again on the hearth, clasped her hands around her 
ankles, drawing them close to her body, and rested her 
chin on her knees. Part of her form was visible in the 
firelight, part was blotted out ; and thus she crouched 
motionless, silently eyeing me. When I had finished 
the meal, Cupe again began talking to the " Corn Bug." 

" Ma'se, yo' mus' lis'n t' what Cupe says, case he 
means yo' well. Dis nigger hab nuss'd yo' since yo' 
wah a little tot ; he hab raised yo', honey. He nebbah 
lef yo', chile. When uddah niggers desarted de planta- 
tion, Cupe stood by yo', an' yo' knows dat eb'ry bressed 
word he ebah tole yo' wah God's trufF. Now lis'n, 
Ma'se ; de preachah nebbah spoke mo'ah serous dan 
Cupe do now. De signs p'dicted am come. Cupe hab 
kept t' hisse'f what ole Ma'se tole him in de ole man- 
sion house dat bu'n down ahftah Ma'se wah killed, an' 
now de time am come fo' yo' t' know what Cupe hab t' 
tell t' yo.' Yo' calls et nigger signs, but lis'n, Ma'se. 
Who stuck closer t' yo' all dese yeahs dan dis nigger 
hab done ; an' what fo' should Cupe fool yo', Ma'se ? 
Now white man an' nigger mus' not try t' circumbent 
Prov'dence ; an' de time am come fo' Cupe t' act, case 
Cupe am done gwine t' tole yo' sump'n' now what no 
man ebah know 'cep'n' Cupe an' de dead folks what caint 
talk t' de likes ob yo'. Lis'n t' Cupe's story, Ma'se. 

" Ole Ma'se, yoah pap, wah a wile chile. Night- 
time come, he wah rac'n' ober de country cotch'n coons, 
danc'n' shindigs, gwine ter places wha he nebbah ought 
t' had be'n, actin' up in ways dat ole Cupe doan care t' 
memberlec', an' doan intend t' memberlec'. Wall, one 
mahn'n' in de time ob de yeah when de 'simmons wah 
jes git'n' sof an' de 'possum wah git'n' fat an' de co'n 
wah bein' shocked, ole Ma'se come home an' say t' 
Cupe: ' Cupe, lay in de back logs an' git de mansion in 

IS 



Stringtown on the Pike 

order ; fer on de las' day ob de yeah dah '1 be a wed'n', 
an' yo' niggers '11 hab a missus.' 'Fo' de Lawd, dis 
nigger wah s'prized. He wah not 'quainte' wid all de 
signs den, else he would hab seed de ebil com'n'." 

A low chant, melody without words, negro melody 
that harmonised strangely with Cupe's pathetic expres- 
sions, arose from the lips of the shadow-clad old crone. 
Evidently her mind was vibrating in unison with Cupe's 
words, and until the chant died away old Cupe stood 
silent. Then he resumed : — 

" Howsumebbah, Cupe knowed some tings, an' he 
say t' ole Ma'se : ' Ma'se, doan bring trouble on yoah 
head.' Ole Ma'se ansah ; ' Yo' brack rascal, why cain't 
one man marry es well es 'nuddah ? ' ' 'T ain't dat, 
Ma'se,' Cupe say: ' de marryin' is all right, else de 
good Book would n't say so. It am de time. Nebbah 
marry on de las' day ob de yeah, lessen yo' want trouble. 
It am a slap in de face ob Prov'dence, Ma'se, Wait 
one day longah, Ma'se ; all de niggers 'II tole yo' trouble 
come lessen yo' lis'n t' 'vice.' 

" ' What a nigger know 'bout Prov'dence ? Damn 
yoah nigger nonsense ! ' say ole Ma'se. 

" An', suah nufF, when de las' day ob de yeah come, 
he did marry Missus Alice, yoah mudder, one ob de 
sweetes' creatures. Lawd ! Lawd ! chile, but she wah 
a honey ! But all de niggers shake der heads an' slip 
away de wed'n' night, an' stan' roun' gloomy-like, an' 
whisper t' demsels, an' suah nuff nigger sign come out 
right; an' de end ob dat mistake ain't come yet. Nebbah 
mo'ah did Ma'se hab any luck. One night de bahn 
buhn ; next winter six ob de best niggers done run off t' 
Canerdy ; dem fool niggers. Den ole Ma'se gits cross 
an' takes powerful strong t' his cups, an' night ahftah 
night dat sweet young missus would hab t' sleep in her 

i6 



Cupe's Story and the Omen 

big room wid Aunt Dinah on de flo' by de bed, an' ole 
Cupe on de flo' by de doah outside in de hall. An' 
missus would cry herse'f t' sleep, an' in de mahn'n 
when ole Ma'se come home swearin' an' cross, she, 
honey deah, would fro her arms 'roun' his neck an' — 
oh ! wall, Ma'se, what 's de use ob 'memb'h'n eb'ryting ? " 

" De honey deah, de honey deah!" moaned Dinah; 
" bress de sweet chile." 

" Shet yoah mouf, Dinah ; dis am no time fo' 
blub'rin' niggers," Cupe rudely said ; and then con- 
tinued : 

" So at las', one stormy night ole Ma'se git on horse- 
back an' ride off t' de tab'n, an' dat night yo' come inter 
de world, Ma'se honey. Bress de soul ob yoah deah 
angel muddah. When de nigger what go fo' ole Ma'se 
fin' him, he wah playin' keards at de tab'n an' he cuss 
an' swar case de nigger say missus wan' him quick, an' 
nebbah a step would he move till mahn'n come ; an' jes 
befo' ole Ma'se step in de doah de angels carry de sweet 
missus out ob de windah. She lib only a few hours 
ahftah she see de face ob her baby chile, Yo' am dat 
chile, Ma'se. De doctah know she could n't las', an' he 
ax her ef she hab any word t' say befo' she go t' 
glory ; an' she say say yes, an' ax fo' Cupe. 

" Lawd, Lawd, Ma'se ! dat wah awful hard times. 
Cupe take his shoes off, an' tiptoe in de room, an' kneel 
down by de bed, an' cry like a baby, an' say very gentle- 
like : ' Fo' de Lawd, honey, Cupe ain't t' blame fo' de 
troub'l, case he wahne' Ma'se ob de ebil what come ob 
marryin' on de las' day ob de yeah.' An' she say, berry 
weak-like: 'T ain't dat, Cupe; yo' alls am yinnercent. 
What I wan' t' say am 'bout tings wot comes heah- 
oftah.' Den she say : * Cupe, when I am gone, dis 
little yinnercent babe won't hab no muddah an' de Lawd 

17 



Stringtown on the Pike 

only knows what kind ob a fahdah.' Cupe he keep still 
an' make no ansah, fo' what could he say ? an' he only 
cry an' cry. Den missus say : ' Cupe, nebbah yo' lebe 
dis chile ; nebbah ; promise me dat, Cupe.' An' Cupe 
say : ' Fo' de Lawd, missus, I promise.' Den missus 
say : ' Cupe, yo' is a nigger, an' all niggers can't do 
what dey wants t', but yo' is not a fiel' nigger, yo' is a 
fam'ly nigger, an' yo' will nebbah be sold, nebbah.^ An' 
nebbah mus' yo' lebe dis chile 'cep'n' it am fo' de good 
ob de chile.' An' 1 swar befo' de Lawd t' missus dat 
nebbah de weddah shall be too hot, nebbah too cole, t' 
keep Cupe from doin' his duty to de new blos'm. An' 
den she reach out her han', monstrous weak-like, an' 
ole Cupe smuddah it wid kisses, an' keep a kiss'n', 
fo' he could n't talk, an' he had n't nuffin' else t' do." 

A wail came from the crouching form on the hearth. 
A wail that spoke as words could not have done of the 
impression Cupe's story was making on the solitary wit- 
ness of that night's experience. Old Cupe stopped his 
discourse and this time waited patiently until the last 
sound died away, then resumed as if there had been no 
interruption. 

" An' den de doctah, he say : ' Cupe, lay de han' back, 
Cupe ; ' an' de doctah go sof'ly t' de doah an' call Aunt 
Dinah, who had gone out t' cry, an' he say t' Dinah : 
' Take de chile, Dinah ; yo' am now de mammy ; ' an' 
den he smoove de cubbahleds an' Cupe say how easy- 
like missus go t' sleep when she git de trouble ofF her 
min', an' de doctah say : *■ Yes, Cupe, nebbah t' wake.' 
An' den ole Cupe look close at de face an' see dat de 
deah young missus wah dead. Her sweet spirit had 

1 Great distinction was made between family and field slaves. 
Family slaves often were free to talk as the master's children were 
not permitted to do. 

i8 



Cupe's Story and the Omen 

gone t' glory while ole Cupe kiss de han' ob de missus 
what wah. 

" An' Cupe moan and cry an' de doctah come an' say, 
monstrous sah'ful-Iike : ' Doan yo' know, Cupe, dat she 
am happy now ? Dah ain't no swar words, dah ain't 
no tab'n, dah ain't no coon dawgs yelpin' all night wha' 
she am now.' Cupe say : ' 'T ain't dat, Ma'se Doctah ; 
case she am gone t' glory, de Lawd knows she am happy 
now ; 't aint dat — but de ebil sign.' ' What ebil sign ? ' 
say the Doctah , an' Cupe say ; ' Trouble, pile on top 
ob trouble ; fo' de deah missus is done gone t' glory an' 
Cupe had de han' kiss'n' it like es it wah alibe. No 
wussah sign could be. God help the chile, Ma'se Doc- 
tah ! God help de blos'm ! ' i An' de doctah could n't 
no moah ansah sech argyment dan de preachah kin. 
He say, says he : ' Nigger signs air nigger signs.' 

" Now Ma'se honey," Cupe said, suddenly addressing 
the " Corn Bug," " Ma'se honey, hab Cupe not done 
what he promis'd yoah deah muddah ? Hab he ebah lef 
yo' ? Hab he not stuck closer t' yo' dan a tick sleep'n' 
b'hin' a dawg's ear ? Hab de weddah ebah be'n too hot 
er too cole fo' Cupe t' sarve yo' ? Hab yo' ebah got 
any sarse words back when yo' cuss ole Cupe ? Ma'se, 
yo' know dat ef yo' had done what Cupe wanted, yo' 
would hab been well edye'cate' an' a fine gem'n like 
Ma'se Manley am. Yo' knows dat ole Cupe trot ahftah 
yo' from de day yo' wah a chile until what yo' air now, 
an' hab begged an' prayed dat yo' lis'n t' Cupe when 
yo' go on de wile track." 

" Yes," conceded the " Corn Bug ; " " yes, Cupe, 
yo' hev been a good nigger." 

" Wall, what fo' Cupe lie now, Ma'se ? What fo' 

1 No worse omen could appear than for a chicken or animal of 

any kind to die in one's hand. Old Cupe received a fearful stroke 

when he held that dying hand. 

^ ^ 19 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Cupe say tings dat am not so ? Lis'n, Ma'se honey ; de 
day befo' ole Ma'se wah killed Cupe wahn' him ob de 
danger in de air. Ma'se he laff, at first, but Cupe say 
t' him, es he say t' yo', ' What fo' should Cupe lie ? ' 
When ole Ma'se heah dat argyment he lis'n' like an' say 
t' Cupe, ' Cupe, life am mighty onsartin'. Nigger sign 
er no nigger sign, life am onsartin', an' I guess, Cupe, I 
might es well es not tells yo' some tings t' do in case 
yoah uddah nigger signs am right ; not dat I b'lebe in 
tings yo' talk 'bout ; fo',' says ole Ma'se, says he, ' nig- 
gers am 'stish'us.' Den he go on, kindah talkin' to 
hisse'f: ' Howsumebbah, niggers am not fools. 'Sides,' 
say ole Ma'se, ' yo' is true t' yoah friends, Cupe, an' 
dat 's moah dan I can say fo' de white people what sit 
on de seat an' play keards 'longside me.' So he git 
solium' like, an' say, says he : *■ Cupe, if yoah nigger 
sign consahnin' me comes true, an' dey hab monstrous 
often come out right, dah air uddah nigger signs what 
will come true consahnin' tings heahoftah. Cupe,' Ma'se 
say, *■ I hab be'n a fool, Cupe, an' it air too late t' quit. 
I hab be'n a fool, Cupe, an' I knows it an' don't keer t' 
quit, case et air pleasant-like now t' be a fool. But yo' 
hab stuck t' me an' t' de chile, an' de time may come 
when yo' will wan' t' be free.' An' den he took a 
papah out ob his pocket an' say, says he : ' Dese heah 
papahs am all 'cordin' t' law, an' when yo' show dem, 
yo' is a free man.' 

" Cupe he take de papah, an' try t' t'ank him, but de 
Ma'se go on wid de talk an' would n't let him say 
nuffin'. ' Keep yoah mouf shet an' doan gib me no 
back talk,' he say. ' Dah am jes one ting fo' yo' t' do, 
an' dat air t' stick t' de chile.' 

" ''Deed I will, Ma'se. I done promise de missus 
dat de night de angels come.' 

20 



Cupe's Story and the Omen 

" ' Stick t' de chile, Cupe,' he say. An' den de Ma'se 
stop talkin' an' walk ofF. 

" So much fo' yoah pap, an' now fo' yoah gran'pap 
an' my pap." 

" Go on," said the " Corn Bug." 

" Wall, yo' knows es well es Cupe, dat ole Ma'se, 
yoah pap, wah killed in Bloody Hollah, an' he wah tole 
by Cupe dat he would be killed likes he wah, jes es 
Cupe tole yo' 'bout dis boy comin' t'-night an' de gearl 
com'n' de day dat she did come. Howsumebbah, dat 
doan consahn yo' jes now. What I gwine t' say con- 
sahns ole Ma'se's fahdah, de fit'n Colonel ; he wah yoah 
gran'pap, an' my pap wah his nigger, jes es Cupe air 
yoah nigger. An' what pass' between ole Colonel, 
yoah gran'pap, an' my pap, yoah fahdah nebbah know'd, 
case the sign wah not right an' Cupe could n't speak 
widout de sign ; but now de sign p'dicted am heah, an' 
Cupe gwine t' tole yo' 'bout what yo' nebbah 'spected 
in all yoah bohn days. 

" Ole Ma'se's fahdah (yoah gran'pap) say t' Cupe's 
fahdah (my pap) long years ago : ' All dese lan's b'longs 
t' me; all ober behin' de big woods is mine; all 
dis part ob dis country is mine.' Den he took pap 
to his iron trunk w'ich he brought from Mexiky 
wha' he wah fit'n 'long wid Ma'se Butler, who lib' in 
Cah'lton — de chist what nebbah no libbin' soul 'cep' 
de ole Ma'se had seen into befo', an' he op'n it an' say, 
says he : ' Dese heah papahs am deeds fo' all de lan's 
yo' can see if yo' clime de highest tree on de plantation. 
Now', says he, ' if dis heah son ob mine doan tuhn out 
good — an' he doan promise much, an' Lawd knows I 
hain't done much need'h t' make him good — yo' keep 
dese papahs till he dies ; den gib 'em to yoah boy, Cupe ; 
an' tole him what t' do wid em. He am a fam'ly nig- 

21 



Stringtown on the Pike 

ger an' won't be sol'. But ef my chile act like a man, 
yo' can gib him dese papahs an' all dis money.' Wid 
dat he showed pap a pile ob gol', sech es I nebbah 
'spected t' see in all my bohn days." 

" You 're lyin', Cupe, yo' know yo' lie," said the 
" Corn Bug." " I hev seen inside yer iron chest, an' 
thare ain't no papers nor no gold in et neither." 

" Nebbah do yo' min' de chist, Ma'se ; nebbah yo' 
min' 'bout de gol'. Yo' don't git none ob dat ; it goes 
to de chillun what sleep in Bloody Hollah, case de sign 
say so. Now yo' knows, honey," Cupe continued, " yo' 
knows, Ma'se honey, dat yo' nebbah hab be'n settled 
steady, so dat Cupe could do what ole Ma'se axt. De 
bottle am yoah mastah, an' it wah de mastah ob' yoah 
pap an' yoah gran'pap, so Cupe hab jes kep' de papahs es 
my pap kep' dem ; an' de money an' de papahs hab 
been waitin' fo' de sign, an' now de sign am heah." 

" What sign, yo' black fool, what sign ? " asked the 
" Corn Bug," with an eagerness which showed that he 
was more interested in the story than he cared to admit. 

*' De sign what folks dat doan b'lebe in signs nebbah 
see," Cupe replied ; "• but dese two chillun wah mixed 
up in de sign ; Cupe hab done tole yo' dis day, Ma'se, 
when de sun wah shinin', dat dis heah boy would come 
when de bat flap, an' de owl hoot t'-night, an' dat Bloody 
Hollah would mix itse'f a'gin in de consahns ob dis 
fam'ly ? " 

" Yes," the " Corn Bug " reluctantly admitted. 

*' Now lis'n," continued the negro. " Doan temp' 
Prov'dence, Ma'se ; dah air tings de preachah doan 
know ; tings dat teachahs can't read out ob books ; 
tings an ole nigger knows bettah dan book-larned folks. 
Dah air tings white men can't teach a nigger ; 'case 
nigger sense ain't altogeddah same es white man's sense ; 

22 



Cupe's Story and the Omen 

an' dah air tings a nigger can't splain de how an' whah- 
foh ob t' white folks, 'case white folks' sense ain't 
'zac'ly like nigger sense. Kin de dawg 'splain how he 
cotch de trail ob de coon ? Nced'h am all niggers de 
same. S'pose Cupe should try t' show dese half white 
niggers, poo' mean trash, what my gran'pap larn from 
his ole mammy, who bring dat sense wid her out ob de 
hot Gol'coast 1 country, what could Cupe do ? Nuffin'. 
Might es well try ter teach white folks es sech niggers. 
Ya, ya, ya," he chuckled. "Now, sit still, honey, sit 
still, an' Cupe will show yo' sump'n' what '11 s'prize yo'." 

^ Gold Coast, the part of Africa Cupe's grandfather came from. 



23 



CHAPTER III 

THE LOST DEED 

HE closed and locked the door, then untied the cur- 
tain string and lowered the green paper curtains, 
and next climbed the ladder that I had seen him descend, 
telling me to follow him. He opened the cover of an 
iron chest, and, after fumbling about inside it, asked me 
to look into its depths. The bottom was covered with 
a layer of bright gold coins, of which Cupe took a few 
pieces and then secured a large folded paper, yellowed 
with age, covered with red seals of wax and tied with a 
dull ribbon that once perhaps had been of some bright 
colour. Together we descended to the room below, 
where Cupe showed the paper and the gold to his 
master. 

The " Corn Bug " stared in amazement, and was 
reaching for the money when Cupe stopped him. 

" Yo' can't tech de gol', Ma'se, de gol' am not 
fo' yo'." 

" Give me the paper," the man impulsively demanded. 

" Heah am de dokyments, Ma'se, de papah what ole 
Colonel, yoah gran'pap say ter my pap would gib yo-uns 
all de lan's yo' can see from de top ob ole Hick'ry." 

The white man took the paper turned it about, eyed 
it curiously, and then handed it back to Cupe. He 
could not read. 

"Yo' see, Ma'se," said Cupe, " de sign says dat yo' 
wah not t' read dis papah ; it wah to be read by de boy 
who saw de sky cross in Bloody Hollah." 

24 



The Lost Deed 

" Here 's the boy," said the " Corn Bug," " but I 
hai n't heard him say nuthin' 'bout no sky cross." 

Old Cupe turned toward me, and as he did so the ne- 
gro crone half rose from her place and leaned partly out 
of the shadows. 

" Tole us 'bout de sky cross yo' saw," said Cupe. 

I shook my head. 

" Dah wah a cross in de sky, an' a cross on de earf, 
chile ? " 

I nodded. 

" An' yo' saw de hant ? " 

" Yes, yes, I saw it." 

"An' mu'd'h'n?" 

" Yes, and murdering, too." 

" De cross am gone, an' de blood am gone an' dried 
dese yeahs dat 's gone, but de hant move on. Back t' 
yoah place, Dinah, yo' brack fool ! " 

Dinah sank into her former position, and Cupe turned 
to his master. " De boy what see de cross am t' read de 
papah, hab not Cupe done tole yo' ? An' de boy what 
seed de cross am heah." 

The " Corn Bug" seemed not to be surprised at the 
corroboration I gave of Cupe's prediction. '* Adzacly," 
he said, "adzacly." 

I took the document and after laborious study managed 
to decipher it. Even then none of us understood more 
than the general purport of the paper. But old Cupe 
had faith in its authenticity. He exultingly cried, when 
I had laboriously spelled out the last word : 

"Cupe done tole yo' so, Ma'se; now what yo' got 
t' say 'bout de tracks in de ashes, an' de figgah in de 
fiah, an' de uddah tings what Cupe saw, an' yo' couldn' t 
understan' an' will nebbah know how he saw dem ?" 

" Why did n't yo' give me that paper long ago ?" 

2$ 



Stringtown on the Pike 

demanded the " Corn Bug." " Where hev yo' kept 
these things ? I hev seen inside thet empty old chest 
often." 

'' Take care, honey, take care ; doan ax quistions too 
libely ; 't ain't safe t' fool wid dese heah solium' tings 
like white folks does wid book readin'." Then Cupe, 
growing more serious, added : 

" Ma'se when de new yeah come yo' an' Cupe '11 part. 
Dese chillun air t' take yoah place, Ma'se, fo' yo' 11 go 
t' yoah long home. Dat ting am sart'n, Ma'se, de long 
home am suah t' come. Cupe measure' de cedah limbs 
ag'in t'-day, an' de young sprout on de long limb stan' 
six feet from de body ob de tree. Dah am room fo' a 
coffin undah dat limb suah, an' yo' know yo' wah de 
man what sot out dat cedah tree." ^ 

" Yes, an' will plant another next spring." 

" Plant'n' will be done in de new yeah, an' yo' will be 
dah, but yo' won't hole de spade, an' it won't be a tree 
what 's planted. Hab not Cupe done tole yo' ob what 's 
suah t' come t' de man what set out a cedah ? Ma'se, 
when de robins flock nauth t' de roost in de thicket 
nex' March an' talk in de gloom ob ebenin', yoah ear 
won't heah de chirpin' voices ; when de sugah watah 
drips in de Feb'uary sunshine, yo' tongue won't taste de 
sweetness ob de sap, an' yoah eye won't see de bright- 
ness ob de sun ; an' when de wahm wind blow an' de 
snow melt in de spring, yoah cheek won't feel de breff 
dat come out ob de souff." 

" Ef I lis'n' to yo', Cupe, I would stop breathin' in 
order to save my life. Yo' hev a sign fer everything." 

" Suah yo' will stop breevin' 'case de dawg Dgawge 

1 The negroes believed that death would come to the man who 
transplanted a cedar tree, when the lower limbs grew to be the length 
of his coffin. 

26 



The Lost Deed 

Wash'n't'n see yoah hant an' de cedah limb on de tree 
yo' sot am long nufF t' cubah a coffin. De tree am 
ready, de groun' am ready, an' de spade am waitin' in de 
shed. But dah am mo'ah t' say t' yo', fo' de uddah sign 
say dat ole Cupe, who nebbah desahted yo' in life, won't 
be by yo' side when de las' call am made. Yo' will hab 
comp'ny, Ma'se, comp'ny heah when yo' start, an' com- 
p'ny on de way dahabouts. Cupe doan 'tend t' say jes 
wha' yo' air gwine, er how long de new partner '11 stick 
t' yo' an' de sign doan say wheddah de landin' place am 
hot er cole. But when yoah heaht am still an' de mouf 
am shet tight, de eyes am closed ahftah de silver qua'tahs 
am taken off, de heels air close t'geddah, an' de toes 
p'int up, when de cubbah ob de box am screwed down, 
ole Cupe '11 be back by yoah side a'gin. An' when yo' 
air laid in de groun' undah de cedah tree yo' planted, 
close beside yo' deah muddah, who rest undah de limb ob 
de weepin' wilier, an' who go t' glory when yo' wah 
bohn, ole Cupe '11 be dah. Bettah yo' begin t' git ready 
fo' dem tings what is p'dicted an' bettah yo' make yo'- 
se'f good wid de pahson, 'case de pahson am might'ly 
mixed in yoah affairs, Ma'se, an' dese chillun am mixed 
too. De signs wahn't quite clear when Cupe read dem 
dat night, dah wah shaddahs, but de omen on the harf 
done mix de affairs ob yo' an' de pahson. Doan yo' 
know, Ma'se, dat when yo' fin' dis baby gearl on de 
Bloody Hollah grabe dat ole Cupe say take her home an' 
her mate '11 follah 'case de sign say so ? an' hab yo' not 
done growl an' cuss ole Cupe an' chss de sign, ah, doan 
yo' lub de chile now like she wah yo' own, honey ? an' 
ain't de boy heah now ? " 

" Nigger nonsense," said the " Corn Bug." 
" 'T ain't safe t' 'fy solium' tings ; bettah shake ban's 
wid de pahson, Ma'se ; nebbah min' de nigger nonsense, 

27 



Stringtown on the Pike 

make fren's wid de pahson, case dah come a time when 
de pahson skeah off de fiah bran' an' keep off de debbil 
too." 

'' I 've no use fer Pahson Jones er his mummery. 
When next I see the pahson, I 'II show yo' how I make 
friends with his likes." 

" De signs am, Ma'se," continued Cupe, heedless of 
his master's scoffing, " dat Cupe '11 stay in de cabin 
ahftah yo' am gone ; de gearl '11 stay, an' de boy '11 come 
ag'in." 

He stopped, went to the fire, and gazed intently into 
the mouldering embers, then slowly said : " De boy '11 
come ag'in t' de cabin in de night-time. De sun am 
shinin' on both dere heads, but a cloud am risin'. De 
boy am gone, but bress de Lawd, honey, Cupe am still 
heah wid de gearl." 

Then after a pause he stirred the ashes, smoothed 
them out, moved his fingers over the surface, seeming 
to read from the embers as one reads from a book. 

" De gearl am in trouble an' go from de cabin ; she 
go' t' de boy; it am in a big house; she kneel on de 
flo' befo' de boy an' de boy cubbahs his face wid his 
ban's an' shakes his head." With a puzzled look the 
negro began mumbling unintelligibly, made another little 
pile of ashes and flattened it out, then spoke again : 

" De gearl wid bended head an' tear mark on de 
cheek come slowly back t' de cabin, dis same cabin, 
lookin' behin' her to'ards de boy. De boy am in a 
cu'yus place, wid glass fixin's an' bottles all 'roun' de 
room ; but he am sah'erin' too an' am lookin' back 
to'ards de gearl. Dey am not chillun now ; he am a 
man, an' she am as pretty es a peach. Lawd, Lawd, 
honey ; but Cupe am still wid her. She am monstrous 
sah'ful, an' her eyelids am swelled ; she come back t' de 

28 



The Lost Deed 

cabin an' cry an' moan, an' t'row her arms 'roun' ole 
brack Cupe's neck, an' den she an' Cupe go up t' de 
mount'ns. Bress yoah soul, chile ; bress yoah soul, 
honey ; God bress yo', honey ; God bress yo' ! " 

Ole Cupe arose and picked up the child, hugged her 
to his bosom and stroked her dishevelled hair with his 
bony fingers, before he returned to his incantations. 
Another period of mummery with the ashes and Cupe 
laughed aloud: "De clouds am gone, an' de sun shine, 
but it shines fru brush. De chillun am t'geddah in de 
ole Kaintuck Ian'. T'ank de Lawd, Ma'se ! " ex- 
claimed the old negro, then suddenly he drew back and 
stared into the embers, saying to himself: "What's de 
meanin' ob dis ? Smoove dem ashes out, Dinah, 'case 
sump'n' am wrong wid de sign." Suiting her actions to 
his words, Dinah leaned over and smoothed the ashes 
with her long, bony fingers, then sat m the shadows, 
swaying her body back and forth, humming a soft, low 
song, without words. I crept timidly forward, and 
gazed over the shoulder of the kneeling seer. I saw 
that he took three short bits of brown straw and laid 
them parallel on the perfectly smooth ash surface, the 
fragments being about three inches apart. " Dah am a 
new face stan'in wha' de boy stood, it air a boy wid a 
red head. Dis am de newcomah, de red-head boy," he 
said, pointing to one straw •, " dis am de boy out ob 
Bloody HoUah," pointing to the second straw ; " dis am 
de honey gearl," pointing to the third. Then, as he 
spoke, it seems to me that I saw a marvellous thing : — 
that a perfect coffin-like tracing form crept about the 
straw of the newcomer, and then that straw caught fire. 
Old Cupe chuckled, pointing to the straw which repre- 
sented myself. After a lapse of some minutes this also 
became surrounded by a similar mark that grew before 

29 



Stringtown on the Pike 

my eyes ; then it began to burn, and almost simulta- 
neously the last straw, that representing the girl, turned 
black, then changed into white ashes, snow-white ashes, 
but I swear it did not burn. Old Cupe threw himself 
upon the floor and moaned in apparent distress. He 
did not interpret the result of his incantation other than 
by this emotion, but quickly arose, and took me by the 
hand : " Chile," he said, " yo '11 sleep in de bed upstairs, 
an' Cupe '11 sleep on de flo' by yoah side. Come, chile, 
it am late in de night, come." 

I was too much exhausted to do anything but sleep, 
yet that night I dreamed. It seemed to me that once I 
opened my eyes to find old Cupe standing by my bed 
in the light of the moon that streamed through the little 
window, mumbling to himself, moving his bony fingers 
over and near my face as he had done over and near the 
ashes, and I caught the words : " Cupe bettah strangle 
de life out ob him now ; but cussed am de pusson who 
breaks de workin's ob de spell." Next morning I 
was awakened early by a searcher, for the country had 
been aroused over my absence, and when I reached my 
home and was folded in the arms of my mother the in- 
fluence of the night's strange incidents disappeared. 



30 



CHAPTER IV 

THE "CORN bug" CURSES THE PARSON 

I HAVE now to record a memorable meeting of the 
village circle which formed about the stove in the 
country store, during which the " Corn Bug " created a 
sensation. Without apparent provocation, he indulged 
in a tirade against the Rev. Mr. Jones, and instead of 
making friends with that gentleman, as old Cupe had 
advised, would have driven him from the room had not 
Professor Drake interfered. The assembled villagers 
were astounded by his violence. The minister had in- 
curred his dislike by an attempt to reform his dissolute 
habits, an attempt that unfortunately resulted in arous- 
ing the wrath of the person whom he aimed to serve. 
The " Corn Bug " from that moment adhered to a 
dogged determination to drink more freely. This even- 
ing he seemed unusually vindictive, and without any 
direct incentive viciously assailed the pastor. 

" Sech people as yo', pahson, air like drone bees, 
always ready ter make a show ov yerselves, but never 
ready ter work. Yo' eats the best the land raises, yo' 
talks ter the prittiest girls, an' sits beside them too ; yo' 
wears the best clothes, yo' rests in the shade in the 
summer an' loafs by the stove in the winter. Yo' wears 
kid gloves like a woman, an' preaches 'bout duty, but 
never acts et 'less takin' care ov your own carcass es 
actin' duty. Yo' air never cold lessen yo' lies in bed 
too late ov a winter mornin' an' gits yer muscles stiff 

31 



Stringtown on the Pike 

because yo' air too lazy ter git up an' make the blood 
move ; an' yo' never gits hot except when goin' through 
the sunshine in the summer from the shade ov a tree ter 
yer dinner. Yo' Methodists air es afraid ov water es a 
mad dog, an' would never save a soul ef, in order ter do 
so, yo' had ter wet yer feet in ice water, when you 'd 
let the other feller's one soul go an' save yer own two 
soles. Pshaw ! I hev seen Hard Shell Baptists an' 
Campbellites break the ice at a baptisin' an' walk right 
inter a pond ov ice water a mile away from a fire ; an' 
yet yo' stands by a stove an' dips the tips ov yer fingers 
in warm water an' sprinkles et over a baby an' calls thet 
' workin' in the Master's field.' 

" Yo' would n't laze around all the week, an' eat an' 
sleep an' sleep an' eat, ef yo' was n't too lazy ter work 
like a man should work," he continued, growing more 
insulting as he proceeded : " Yo' would n't take what I 
am a-givin' yo', either, if yo' had the spunk ov a sick 
rabbit er the energy ov a sleepin' 'possum. Yo' would n't 
cross the street in a shower ter save a dyin' child, an' 
yo' would n't dare crack yer finger in the face ov a 
turtle-dove fer fear yo' might get pecked." 

Professor Drake arose and indignantly demanded 
order. The pastor had listened in silence, making no 
response, but it could be seen that his passions were 
much moved and that he was holding himself in check 
only by strenuous effort. 

" One duty of gospel ministers," he replied rather 
sadly as the echoes of the insulting voice of the " Corn 
Bug " died away, " is to teach tolerance and practise 
forgiveness. God knows it would be easier to strike 
now than to keep down my anger ; but how can we 
follow the Master we serve, and not forgive those who 
wrong us ? How can we ask others to heed our words 

32 



The "Corn Bug" curses the Parson 

unless we set an example ? No doubt, my friends, 
ministers frequently err. Yes, my hearers, yes, minis- 
ters are often to be blamed for errors of judgment or for 
self-indulgence. They are not always the bright ex- 
amples in holy living they should be. Perhaps they live 
in too great luxury ; perhaps they have too many 
pleasures ; perhaps they are not willing to undergo 
privations as they should. My friend," he continued, 
turning towards his adversary, " I thank you for this 
lesson, over which I shall ponder, and by which I shall 
endeavour to profit ; and if ever it chances that I can 
return to you the kindness you have shown me in this 
view you have given me of myself, if you ever have 
need of my services in an extremity, you will find that I 
shall not hesitate to wet my feet in your behalf. Neither 
shower, snow, nor storm, neither heat, cold, nor darkness 
shall keep me from my duty in the future, if they have 
ever done so in the past." 

Was it chance, or was it a link in the "spell," that 
caused the door to open just before the speaker pro- 
nounced the last sentence ? Old Cupe, with uncovered 
head, his white wool and beard contrasting strongly with 
his shiny black face, stepped into the room, stood before 
the minister and said : 

" When de yeah goes out be ready, pahson, when de 
yeah goes out." 

" Nigger nonsense is nigger nonsense," said the 
" Corn Bug," suddenly becoming quiet and in a half- 
apologetic way, turning from Mr. Jones and addressing 
Judge Elford ■, "never mind the black fool." Then, 
turning to Cupe, he abruptly asked: "Did yo' bring 
them thare papahs ? " 

The negro handed him the yellowed deed, which 
was passed to the judge. 
3 33 



The "Corn Bug" curses the Parson 

" Jedge," said the " Corn Bug," " this 'ere papah air 
ov more or less valyer, 'cordin' ter what 's written an' 
who wrote et. I ain't eddycated ter understand the 
sense ov sech things, an' don't purtend ter know what 
lawyers knows, an' this papah is a law papah, es any one 
can see by the red sealin' wax an' other marks." The 
judge untied the faded ribbon, deliberately unfolded the 
time-worn script and silently read the contents. 

" Where did you get this document ? " he asked at 
length. 

" Cupe, the lazy thief, has kept et fifty years an' 
more among his nigger things." 

" Where did you get it ? " said the judge, meditatively 
addressing Cupe. 

" Ol' Colonel, Ma'se's gran'pap, gib it ter my pap." 

" Why did n't you show it sooner ? " 

" De sign wah not right." 

" What sign ? " 

" Nigger sign, Jedge," interrupted the " Corn Bug." 
" Don't ax the fool nigger any more questions ; he don't 
know nothin'." 

Without replying, the judge carefully refolded the 
paper, placing it in his pocket. " I will study the docu- 
ment at my leisure and give my opinion at a future 
time," he said, after a pause. 



34 



CHAPTER V 

JUDGE ELFORD's DECISION 

IN winter, time passes slowly in the country, and 
especially did it seem to linger while Stringtown 
was awaiting Judge Elford's report concerning the " Corn 
Bug's " deed. Each Saturday evening the circle met and 
considered such subjects as were of general interest to the 
community. At one time the party assumed the func- 
tions of a tribunal, and without any expense whatever 
to the participants a neighbourhood quarrel was amicably 
settled by the judge and teacher. The Rev. Mr. Jones 
read two papers on semi-religious subjects the same 
evening, and the second Saturday in November the 
teacher presented a carefully prepared essay which was 
discussed by the wiseacres of the circle, and listened to 
by the other members and a few visitors. At the fol- 
lowing meeting the colonel — Colonel Luridson — told 
a story of adventure, and afterward, by way of diversion, 
the floor was cleared, and to the pat of Jupiter (pro- 
nounced Juba) by ole Cupe, who always attended his 
master, a couple of young " buck " negroes rendered a 
dance. These Saturday night entertainment parties 
drew a large audience. The subjects discussed were 
not necessarily of a trivial nature, although when Mr. 
Jones was absent much light gossip crept into place. 
Art, literature, politics and even science were not neg- 
lected. We were country people of simple tastes, but 

35 



Stringtown on the Pike 

paved streets, bright lights, noise, confusion, the glamour 
of fashion and the vanities of society are not necessary 
for intellectual development. Urban surroundings are 
not essential to discipline children for leadership in any 
walk, educational or commercial. But enough of this ; 
I must pass to the record of our meeting the second 
Saturday evening in November, 1863, ^s shown by the 
yellowed stenographic notes of the grocer's boy, now on 
the desk before me. 

That night the room contained a large and anxious 
audience, for it had become noised about that the legal 
document under consideration pretended to convey to the 
" Corn Bug " much of the land in Stringtown County. 
If it was accepted by the judge as genuine and legal, to 
many persons in that assemblage, who placed implicit 
confidence in his judgment, it meant the loss of accumu- 
lations of life-long toil. The full force of the disaster 
that would come to the community in case the floating 
stories concerning the document were sustained was 
known to all ; many were the quiet discussions that had 
been held concerning its final effect. The lengthened 
deliberations of the judge had mdicated that important 
disclosures were to be made, and this inference was sup- 
ported by the fact that under his direction the county 
surveyor had run a series of lines about the section 
named in the will, and had made careful calculations 
concerning it. Hence it was that amid perfect silence 
Judge Elford adjusted his spectacles and read from a 
carefully drawn manuscript, 

" The paper which I hold in my hand is a Virginia 
colonel's military warrant, and calls for five thousand 
acres of land, more or less. The document is in good 
form and was drawn up during the last century under 
the laws of Virginia, while Kentucky was still a part of 

j6 



Judge Elford's Decision 

that territory. The boundary of the land included in 
this survey is exactly located as follows : 

" ' Beginning at the great boulder over Clear Spring, 
thence east to the blazed road in Fowler's Valley, thence 
north to the fork of Bear's Creek, thence west to Fow- 
ler's Valley, thence south to the starting-point.' Now, 
Fowler's Valley passes diagonally through this territory, 
and the description is otherwise in exact conformity 
with the present landmarks, known by the same names. 
Since a line run by the county surveyor at my request 
demonstrates that the land embraced in this military 
claim covers about five thousand acres, there is in my 
mind no doubt but the survey is authentic. However, 
a discrepancy involving many acres would not discredit 
the title, for the early surveyors of Kentucky made no 
allowance for hills and valleys or for unequal surfaces, 
and, indeed, owing to the abundance of land, cared 
little about precision of survey, taking care only that 
enough was given. For example, one Kentucky patent, 
cited in a recent court decision, which called for four 
thousand acres, actually embraced over nine thousand 
acres ; and some lands, as many persons have found to 
their distress, have been granted by patent two or three 
times. These old military titles have always been a 
source of great trouble in Kentucky, and purchasers and 
settlers have found themselves continually confronted 
with the fact that their possessions had been previously 
granted to others or were claimed by others. 

*' In order, therefore, to overcome this confusion and 
to establish clear titles, corrective legislative acts were 
passed from time to time, first by Virginia and subse- 
quently by Kentucky. In 1796 it was laid down that 
adverse possession of the land for a period of twenty 
(20) years constituted ownership and completed the title. 

37 



Stringtown on the Pike 

However, no blanket law of this description can be 
equitable, for in many cases large tracts of land were 
actually stolen by virtue of the opportunity that the mis- 
chievous law created ; and in 185 1, the following cor- 
rective act was passed : ' An action for the recovery of 
real property can only be brought within fifteen years 
after the right to institute it first accrued to the plaintiff 
or the person through whom he claims.' Legal con- 
tests by reason of these surveys and legal enactments 
have probably cost the landowners of Kentucky more in 
the aggregate than the entire realty of the Commonwealth 
is worth, 

"Now, under the twenty-year possession act of 1796, 
the tract specified by the warrant under consideration, 
were there no exceptional circumstances, would have 
been outlawed long since and the warrant of Colonel 
Hardman would have no value whatever ; but certain 
conditions peculiar to this case, considered in connection 
with the amendment of 1851, render it questionable 
whether a court of equity would not sustain the claim of 
the heir. True, Mr. Hardman has never held posses- 
sion of the land, but his dispossession has been from no 
fault of his own, and his father was in the same predic- 
ament. His grandfather, the old colonel, located the 
land properly, obtained a military warrant for it and 
recorded this warrant, as I find, in the Virginia Land 
Office, where the fact slumbered unseen. He placed 
the document in the hand of an irresponsible party, 
instructing him under certain conditions to give it to his 
son at a certain time. This was not done, but, instead, 
the paper was handed to another irresponsible party, and 
has now turned up after three-quarters of a century. 

"The old colonel could not foresee the course the 
paper would take; the son knew nothing about the docu- 

38 



Judge Elford's Decision 

ment, neither did the son's son, the present heir, who 
presented it to me at once on its discovery. The deed 
has not been neglected by any responsible party ; the 
inheritors, in ignorance of their possessions, have lived 
constantly on other possessions that lie adjacent to part 
of the land described, vv^hile strangers have profited from 
its use. The question is, will the court dispossess those 
who are now in possession in order to give the rightful 
heir his just inheritance, or will the court take from Mr. 
Hardman a property of which, through no act of his 
own and no intention of his ancestor, he has been 
deprived these many years ? In my opinion, the land 
should in equity revert to Mr. Hardman, but we have 
here an extraordinary condition that can only be 
decided by the Court of Appeals." 

The judge ceased, and silence such as seldom fell 
over the members of the circle ensued. Perhaps each 
man was waiting for his neighbour to speak ; perhaps all 
alike realised the significance of that momentous power 
resting with the court of last resort. Then Mr. 
Nordman, the old gentleman from above Stringtown, 
arose and moved toward the door, but stopping a 
moment, without any display of emotion, remarked : 
" Ther comes a time, Judge, when a piece of cold 
iron is mightier than the law; and if this old deed takes 
in my land, I now warn all within hearing that I will 
not be dispossessed. My father and mother lie in the 
graveyard back of my house, two children of my own 
sleep by their side, and a spot under the willow is 
marked for Mrs. Nordman and myself to rest in. I do 
not fancy being buried in a public graveyard, and damn 
me if I will be buried in another man's land. When 
the sheriff steps into my front gate he must come armed, 
suh, It will be a fair fight, and as I am getting old ^nd 



Stringtown on the Pike 

stiff, my hand may miss its mark, but if it does, I will 
sleep under my own willow-tree. Tell the sheriff, gentle- 
men, that when he comes to dispossess me of the 
property my father earned, he must be ready to draw a 
bead the minute he steps inside the gate, suh." With a 
courteous bow the old gentleman left the room. 



40 



CHAPTER VI 

THE DILEMMA OF THE " CORN BUG " 

EXPRESSIVE glances were cast around the circle 
when Mr. Nordman passed out, and the grocer 
remarked in an undertone : " I don't envy the sheriff 
his job ; the old man shoots like a ranger. I will bet a 
boss he don't sleep under the tree." Then the circle 
lapsed into silence. Many hearts were heavy over the 
disclosures the judge had made, and he, too, felt the 
gloom that settles over one who, having economised his 
earnings until the period of rest should come to an 
industrious man, finds the savings of a lifetime likely to 
be swept aside by a penstroke. At last the " Corn 
Bug" spoke : 

" Js'^g^? I don't adzacly grasp all the pints ov yer 
speech, but I believe I kin see the drift ov the thing. 
Ef I catch the idea, this paper es ginuinc, an' nigger 
Cupe told the truth. The land es mine ? " 

"That is my present opinion." 

" Now let me ax a quistion, Jedge. Ef I am right, 
the deed calls fer five thousan' acres ov land ? " 

" It does, Mr. Hardman." 

" The line begins at Clear Spring boulder, runs ter 
Fowler's Valley road, then ter Bear Creek fork, then 
ter Fowler's Valley cross-road, then back ter the 
boulder." 

" Yes, so the survey records." 
41 



Stringtown on the Pike 

"Thet takes in old man Sawyer's farm ? " 

"Yes." 

"Wall, Jedge," said the " Corn Bug" thoughtfully, " I 
hain't much love fer the likes ov him. There hain't 
no honest bone in his body, an' et goes without sayin' 
thet he cheated Widow Longing out ov thet very farm. 
Yo' see, Jedge, with all respect ter the court, the law 
helped old Sawyer ter steal the land, an' nobody knows 
et better than yourself, Jedge ; but yo' need n't begin 
ter apologise now fer the law's wrongs, vo' would never 
git through. Oh, wall, the widder died in the poor- 
house, an' ef I hev my say, old Sawyer will trot in thet 
direction. By the way, Jedge, ef I am right, this deed 
calls fer the Humses boys' farm ? " 

" Certainly; their farm is near the centre of the plat." 

*' Wall, sense them fellers got home from college 
they hain't no 'count, nohow. They holds up their 
heads an' snufFs the air when they passes common folks. 
They talks too highfalutin' fer sensible folks, anyway ; 
they puts a mo- on their 'lasses an ' a po- on their 
'taters an' slings on style like as though their grandad 
had n't worked in a deadenin'. This part of the world 
ain't good 'nough fer sech stuck-up people. Guess I 
won't care ef they hev ter move out ov this section, an' 
I takes et nobody else will cry their eyes out. How- 
somever, Jedge, how 'bout the village ? Does the deed 
call fer the village, Jedge ? " 

"Yes. Here is a rough map of the claim. This 
crossmark represents Stringtown." 

" Wall, I declare. All these dooryard lots an' back 
pastures ? " 

" Every lot, house and barn." 

" Who would hev thought the nigger knew so much, 
I 'U be a rich man, Jedge, a very rich man." 

42 



The Dilemma of the "Corn Bug" 

The judge nodded his head. 

" The teacher's lot ?" 

"Yes." 

" The tavern lot ?" 

" Yes." 

" The two Miss Ruby's lot ?" 

" Yes." 

"The widder's?" queried the "Corn Bug," glancing 
at me. The widow was my mother. 

" Yes." 

" Yer own lot, Jedge ? " 

" Yes." - 

" Gewhillikins ! And the graveyard ? " 

" The graveyard, too, but not the tombstones." 

"Tombstones, Jedge, ain't fit fer nothin' but side- 
walks ; those who wants 'em kin take 'em off my ground. 
Wall, I '11 be a rich man, Jedge ; I kin eat what I wants 
ter, I kin drink what I wants ter." 

The judge smiled and a forced laugh went around the 
circle. 

"Jedge, I don't want the two Miss Ruby's lot. 
These girls I hev known sense they were tots. They 
speak sof'ly ter me, Jedge, an' et kinder makes me 
ashamed ov myself — when I drinks too much I don't 
like ter meet 'em then. Yo' see, Jedge, I sometimes 
drinks too much." 

" So I have heard." 

" Wall, et don't matter, I won't hev thet lot. Neither 
does I want the widder's property. Sammy," he called, 
" come here. Bub." I obeyed, and he placed his hand 
on my head and stood looking me in the face. 

" Does yo' 'member the day when three boys found 
me layin' in the briar patch in the back paster ? Does 
yo' know thet the other brats mawked an' called me 

43 



Stringtown on the Pike 

names, never mind what — I kin 'member 'em ef I was 
in my cups ? " 

« Yes, sir." 

" Does yo' recollect thet yo' brushed the flies off my 
face an' put my hat over my eyes an' spread yer hand- 
kerchief over thet, an' then went fer Cupe ? " 

I hung my head, but my silence plainly admitted the 
truth of what he said. 

" Go back ter yer seat, child, go back. Jedge," he 
continued, '' I gives thet boy two thousan' dollars ter 
eddycate himself with. He hain't strong 'nough ter 
work an' he must larn how ter skin workin' folks ef he 
lives 'spectable. Make a lawyer, a doctor, er druggist. 
Sonny. Remember, Jedge, when I dies this boy es ter 
hev two thousan' dollars in gold an' the little girl at my 
house es ter hev my land an' all the rest. I adopt thet 
girl, Jedge. Cupe the nigger knows whare the money 
is, Jedge. I hev seen a few ov the gold pieces, but 
hev n't teched et, an' yo' must give et es I says. I war 
drunk once, Jedge, an' more than once, but I ain't drunk 
now. Yo' see, Jedge, every drunk man ain't dead er a 
fool, no more than every dead man er fool air drunk." 

" Better make your will in writing if you want it to be 
legal," said the judge. 

" Now, Jedge," the " Corn Bug " continued, as if he 
had not heard the remark, " the teacher hev done a pile 
of good hereabouts. Ef I had known what war best fer 
me an' lis'n'd ter Cupe I would hev been eddycated too, 
but thare ain't no use in all ov us tryin' ter be smart, 
Thare must be some gentlemen an' some workingmen in 
the world, thare must be some eddycated people, an' 
some who don't know nothin'. Et ain't the man who 
knows the most who air happiest, an' et ain't the man 
who hev done the most good who gits the soft seats ter 

44 



The Dilemma of the '^ Corn Buo;" 

rest in. I hev n't done nothin' fer nobody, an' I don't de- 
sarve nothin' from nobody, an' here I finds a loose plan- 
tation. The teacher hev taught a pile of larnin' ter 
others an' made lots ov folks rich who hev used his larn- 
in', an' he hain't got nothin' but a house an' lot ; an' ef 
these law fellers in Frankfort, who don't care a damn fer 
either ov us, says so, he's ter be kicked out an' I' m ter 
git the lot. I don't want his lot though, an' I won't hev 
his lot, an' I don't want yer lot, Jedge, either. But the 
tavern, Jedge, the tavern." 

" Well ? " 

"Thet 's the place fer me, fellers. I never b'l'eved 
thet I could git a chance ter live in a tavern ; thet's the 
next thing ter flyin' through Heaven, Jedge. Howsom- 
ever, thare es somethin' ter say on t' other side ov every 
quistion. Ef I gits rich an' lives in a tavern then I kin 
git all the licker 1 wants. Ef I gits all the licker I wants, 
I will drink so much licker I won't hev sense 'nough 
ter know when I wants licker. Ef I don't know nothin' 
an' I won't ef I lives in a tavern, I can't want any more 
licker, an' I would es soon be dead es not ter want 
licker. This air a tough quistion, Jedge, fer sech a feller 
as I am ter conumdrate. 

"Now, es ter the graveyard. What good will a 
graveyard do me ? I hev stood with my hat off in thet 
graveyard in winter an' in summer watchin' buryin's. I 
hev seen mothers cry over their babies an' hev seen 
children kneel 'round the graves ov their mothers. I 
hev a graveyard ov my own behind the cabin, an' thet's 
'nough for me. I never wants ter own a public grave- 
yard. It es hard 'nough, Jedge, ter hear people sobbin' 
on their own property, an' ef I should own thet town 
graveyard I would feel es though all those cryin's ov or- 
phans an' sobbin's ov mothers were 'round me. I 'd 

45 



Stringtown on the Pike 

dream 'bout 'em in the night, an' I 'd be afeard ter even 
drink 'nough ter git happy dreams, fer a man who has 
licker-dreams air very sensitive an' must hev a clear con- 
science. He muss n't hev any devilment in his mind ef 
he air in his cups, else he dreams ov snakes an' sech. 
Besides, Jedge, I kinder don't know 'bout the vartue ov 
the law when et comes ter the graveyard case. Ef a 
person don't own the six feet ov ground he lies in, what 
does he own ? Et don't seem es ef the Lord would 
bring men an' women inter the world an' grow 'em ter 
full size without givin' 'em land 'nough ter hold their 
bones. I kinder feels thet et air a farce fer a feller with 
five thousan' acres ov land growin' up in briars an' per- 
simmons ter say he owns the six feet ov ground his dead 
neighbour lies in an' who don't want no more than six 
by two. Guess, Jedge, the lawyers kin keep the grave- 
yard fer their fee ; they won't give me all this land fer 
nothin' ; they hev n't no feelin's neither, an' won't care 
ef the graveyard their neighbours rest in es ploughed up. 
" J^^g^? I ain't talkin' altogether ter yo' now, but am 
arguin' ter myself es well. Yo' see, Jedge, while I 
don't cast no reflections at nobody, still I likes ter talk 
ter myself. Thare ain't no harm in thet. Old Squire 
Slickum always talked out loud ter himself, an' he wa'n't 
no fool either. One time I asked him what he did it 
fer. Yo' see, Jedge, I am given ter the same habit, an' 
I kinder wanted ter git an argument ready in case some 
fly-up-the-creek person asked me consarning the sar- 
cumstance. The Squire said thet he talked ter himself 
fer three reasons. First, he liked ter talk ter a smart 
man, an' second, he liked ter hear a smart man talk. I 
hev forgotten the other reason, but et don't make no 
diff'rence. You -all won't take no offence at my 
excuse, an' I only asks yo' ter 'member thet I tells this 

46 



The Dilemma of the "Corn Bug" 

story es ^ an excuse, fer et air dangerous ter say out loud 
ter others what one thinks ov lawyers. A man air 
never sure ov keepin' out ov their clutches. They air 
after everybody. Ef a fellow hain't got nothin', he 
wants what some other feller has got, an' pays a lawyer 
ter help him git it, an' the lawyer never renigs. Ef he 
has got somethin', he has ter hire a lawyer ter help him 
keep et. Et air funny, Jedge, ain't et, thare air only 
one sure winner, an' thet air the lawyer. I am talkin' 
at random ter myself, Jedge, an' don't mean nothin' 
personal." 

" I know that you do not reflect on me," replied 
Judge Elford, " and I am aware that many attorneys do 
disreputable things in the name of the law. However, 
Mr. Hardman, were it not for the law, honest men 
would be the prey of designers. Take this case of your 
own as an example ; in my opinion, the Court of Ap- 
peals will dispossess me, a man of law, of my life sav- 
ings, and, were I on the bench, and your case before 
me, no self-interest would influence in the least my de- 
cision." 

" I ax yer pardon, Jedge," said Hardman, " I war 
talkin' at random. I war not thinkin' ov the good yo' 
lawyers do, but ov the bad. I sometimes fergits the 
good things what happens, but hangs onter the other 
side, an' thet air the fault ov other people es well es 
myself." 

1 Pronounce the s as z. 



47 



CHAPTER VII 

" THE BEST OF THE DEVIL AND THE LAW TOO." 

THE " Corn Bug " paused for a moment, and went 
on with his rambling talk, which none present 
cared to interrupt, knowing that he had some object in 
view that could only be discovered by allowing him to 
finish in his own way. 

" Ef thet air deed air legal I will be a very rich man, 
maybe too rich. Somehow, p'r'aps et air possible fer a 
feller ter be too rich. But ter the pint ; ef this paper 
(holding up the deed) is correct, Jedge, I will become a 
landlord an' own all this corner ov the country ? " 

" The law allows it." 

" Every lot in the village ? " 

" Unquestionably." 

" Every farm inside these lines ? " 

" Every wood, field, orchard, and garden." 

" Jedge, all these people will have ter pay me rent ? " 

" Yes, or you can expel them." 

" Widders, orphans, storekeepers, tavern-keepers, 
school teachers, preachers, poor people, rich people ? " 

" Yes." 

" I won't hev ter work. I kin just put my hand in 
my pocket an' take out a dollar when I wants ter ? " 

" Well, it looks that way." 

" Now, Jedge, what right hev I ter this land ^ What 
hev I done thet et should b'long ter me ? " 

48 



"The Best of the Devil, &c." 

" The law will give it to you if the Court of Appeals 
so decides." 

" Jedge, I hain't done nothin' on the tract, an' these 
other people hev cleared the land, burned the brush an' 
ploughed up the roots. Mr. Nordman told the truth, et 
ain't mine, law er no law." 

" The deed of your grandfather carries the land to his 
heirs." 

" Wall, p'r'aps yer law is powerful 'nough ter make 
et right, but et seems es ef et helps steal. I guess, 
though, I ain't ter blame fer the law's mistakes, an' ef 
the land es mine, why ov course I must obey the law. 

" Lord, folks, but 1 kin live high. P'r'aps et ain't 
best to live too high either. Sometimes now I lives too 
high an' sings too loud an' talks too much. Guess I hev 
talked too much ter-night. Ef I hev my pocket always 
full ov money, Jedge, won't I treat the crowd an' won't 
I punish the eggnog ! I '11 be rich, awful rich. I '11 
hire a clerk ter collect rents ; I '11 sit in an office an' 
count money. Et must be awful satisfyin' an' elevatin' 
ter count money all day. I '11 wear store clothes on 
week days an' eat sardines, an' drink mint julips every 
day in the summer, an' eat oysters an' drink eggnog every 
day in the winter. I '11 build my office next ter the tavern. 
This paper hev raised my calculations high, an' I hev 
kinder been arguin' an' enjoyin' myself out loud. Thare 
air two sides ter every quistion though, es you hev said 
more than once, an' I bed better look a minute at the 
other side. 

" Jedge, I hev lived in this neighbourhood fifty years 
comin' next January. I hev worked on week days an' 
rested on Sundays, an' hev lived es well as I desarvcd 
ter do. I wears warm jeans clothes an' I never suffers 
with heat er cold, lessen I am in my cups an' lays out. 
4 49 



Stringtown on the Pike 

You-uns all earned yer homes an' farms an' yo' owns 
'em, law er no law. I don't want ter throw any ov 
you-uns out ov the homes yo' hev saved, an', Jedge, yo' 
know thet the city man who once threw the widder an' 
childern inter the snow said thet rich men air ter be 
pitied fer they hev ter make rules they don't like thet 
bears hard on some people. One ov the first ter go 
would be the Widder Drew. She can't pay no rent ; 
an' the next would be the orphan Ruby girls, they hain't 
got no money. I know a good many other people in 
the village who can't pay no rent — the Lord only knows 
how village people do make a livin', an' rich men like I 
am goin' ter be can't make no 'lowances. Either pay up 
er git out. Take yer house ofF the lot. The flesh is 
weak, Jedge, an' I am afeard ef this deed turns out ter 
be good, I will make rich man's rules first, an' shake 
ban's with the law second, an' go ter the devil third. 
My conscience will be ruined, Jedge ; the flesh es pow- 
erful weak. I don't do nobody no harm now ; I works 
an' sleeps an' eats an' drinks an' hev a clear conscience. 
I eats what I wants when I kin git it, an' pays fer what 
I drinks, an' am happy, an' ain't carin' fer nothin' ner 
nobody. 

" An' this here paper," holding up the deed, " is the 
dockyment what makes you-uns all this trouble, Jedge ? " 

" You understand its import." 

" An' makes me rich ? " 

'' The richest man in the county." 

" Ain't thare no copy ? " 

" No." 

" Comreds, et would be pow'ful fine fer a feller like 
me ter wear store clothes week days, an' eat sardines an' 
oysters when I wants 'em, an* drink eggnog all the 
winter and julips all the summer. Et would be glorious 

50 



"The Best of the Devil, &c." 

ter git even with them Sawyers an' Humses an' a few 
other skinflints an' stuck-ups. But I can't afford no 
disgrace ter my conscience. I don't want ter turn wid- 
ders an' orphans out ov their homes ; I can't take rent 
money fer Ian' I did n't earn, an' yet et 's an awful 
temptation ter the likes ov me." 

He opened the deed, looked at the red seal, carefully 
folded it and tied it again, stroked it lovingly, half thrust 
it into his pocket, turned toward the door, then recon- 
sidered, came back and drew the document out again. 
" Et air an awful temptation, Jedge, ter the likes ov me. 
I tastes the eggnog now an' smells the julips." Then 
he stood meditatingly and silent. 

" Jedge," said Mr. Hardman, at last, " I hev got the 
best ov the devil an' the law too, an' you-all kin go 
home an' sleep. The village ain't mine, law er no law, 
an' I ain't a-goin' ter help the law steal. I gits drunk 
with my own money, which ain't no harm ter the likes 
ov me an' don't hurt no other feller ner the Lord either, 
but I never intends ter buy nothin' fer myself with the 
money I 've squeezed out ov widders an' orphans, an' I 
don't intend ter let the law make me a thief first an' a 
wretch second. Folks, I hev downed the devil, an' the 
law, which taken together air mighty hard fer a man ter 
do. I don't intend ter hev no fam'ly disgrace, an' I 
don't intend ter steal nothin'. Fellers, old man Nord- 
man won't hev ter shoot the sheriff." 

He opened the stove door and thrust the dry docu- 
ment into the blaze. A flash as of tinder, a pufF, a 
twisting, blackening paper, and then — ashes. Those 
about drew back in amazement. 

"Yer kin go home an' sleep, folks," said the Corn 
Bug turning from the stove, " thare ain't no copy ter 
disturb you-all, an' thare ain't no tavern, sardines, eggnog 

51 



Stringtown on the Pike 

an' julips fer the likes ov me. Come, Cupe, come, we 
don't live in the hotel no more ; it air gittin' late, it air 
rainin', an' the mud air deep b'twixt here an' the cabin." 
The " Corn Bug " opened the door, and together with 
old Cupe stalked out into the darkness. 



52 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE STORY OF THE COLONEL 

NEW Year's Eve, 1863, had been set apart by 
the Village Circle as a special holiday, the inten- 
tion of the members being " to see the old year out " 
and listen to the reading of a special paper by the pastor, 
Mr. Jones, which was to be replied to by Colonel Lu- 
ridson. The "Corn Bug" had "taken sick," as the 
doctor expressed it, the morning after the meeting men- 
tioned in the preceding chapter, and his illness proved 
to be serious. Too obstinate to care for himself, the 
eccentric fellow neglected medical aid, and acute pneu- 
monia, a common fatality in many parts of Kentucky, 
had followed, quickly succeeding an ordinary cold, 

Thursday, December 31, 1863, dawned warm and 
sultry. The thermometer registered seventy that morn- 
ing, and about noon a heavy mist settled over hill 
and valley. This was followed in the afternoon by a 
drizzling rain that sifted down in fine particles, which 
sopped the grass and stuck together the pendent dead 
leaves always clinging, during soft weather in mid-winter, 
to the lower beech limbs. 

In the evening the members of the Stringtown Circle 
met according to expectation, but owing to the storm 
many of them were detained and straggled to their 
places. The " Corn Bug " alone was finally absent : as 
has been said, he lay dangerously ill in his humble cabin. 
The grocer's boy sat, as usual, behind the counter, ready 

S3 



Strlngtown on the Pike 

to take notes in shorthand on a quire of white paper 
such as is used for wrapping tea, and I sat on a stool 
beneath the hanging lamp, just back of the favored 
members of the Circle. Silence fell upon the persons 
who first presented themselves : a shadow seemed to 
hang over the Circle. 

The reserve was finally broken by Chinney Bill 
Smith, a bearded man, who vowed when Fort Sumter 
was bombarded, never to cut his hair or whiskers until 
the South was free. This man regaled the Circle by 
relating the story of " the mother of Sam Hill's wife's 
sister," the story teller being typical of more than one 
person well known and popular in the commonwealth of 
Kentucky.! 

From the humorous sketch of Chinney Bill Smith it 
was apparently a long step to the dissertation which fol- 
lowed, an essay on storms, delivered by Prof. Drake. 
Yet it was characteristic of the Circle that it could pass 
with relish from one extreme to the other. 

At the conclusion of Professor Drake's essay, the 
evening being not very far advanced. Judge Elford 
addressed Mr. Jones. 

" Pastor, it is your turn now. Let us have your 
promised essay on Death, to be answered by Colonel 
Luridson." 

The pastor arose, threw his long hair back from his 
forehead and mildly remarked : " Before beginning to 
read I will say that the title does not always clearly 
define the contents of a book ; and while my paper deals 
with the subject of death, its caption is ' The Life 
Line.' " Then in a slow, deliberate tone, quite in con- 

' This story was a monstrous exaggeration, quite humorous and 
yet threaded with satire and irony. Although a welcome diversion 
in its place the author believes it better to exclude it from this book. 

54 




^ 



-•a 

i: "*= 



b. 



The Story of the Colonel 

trast to that of bald, spectacled Prof. Drake, the essayist 
read on uninterrupted and without pause until he reached 
the closing sentence : — 

" Let us think, then, of the end point of this drama. 
Since none can foresee just when the tread on the life- 
line will falter, let us accept that it matters little whether 
in the morning or the evening it be that we take the 
awful plunge. To-day, never to-morrow, loosens our 
hold of earthly problems." 

Then raising his eyes from the paper, he glanced first 
at Judge Elford, who, immovable, made no response, 
then at Prof. Drake, who, leaning his head on his hands, 
gazed intently on the floor. Then his questioning look 
passed without response successively around the circle, 
from one to the other, and finally rested again on the 
face of the colonel, whose part it was to answer the 
essay. Standing alone, gazing intently at the upright 
colonel, the parson folded his arms across his chest and 
deliberately said, looking directly into Luridson's eyes : 
" Do you know, my friend, you who are to reply to this 
essay, do you know when you or I will loosen our hold 
on the life-line ? Are you prepared for the end of the 
game of life ? " 

What play of thought sped from man to man as the 
eyes of these two met cannot be told in words, but could 
be felt by those who caught the meeting of those eyes. 
'T is not when steel meets steel, nor when flint meets 
flint that the fire flies, but when steel meets flint. Per- 
haps none present realized that such opposites were face 
to face. 

For a second neither moved. The parson held the 
unfinished essay in his hand, while the colonel stoically 
chewed his quid of tobacco, apparently indift^erent to 
surroundings. Suddenly the latter, looking the tranquil 

55 



Stringtown on the Pike 

parson in the eye replied as if impelled by a mental 
question exacted from him by his opponent : 

" You can put your paper away, Mr. Jones," he said. 
" I have heard enough and am ready to say my speech. 
Pahson, no preacher ever told the truth bettah than you 
have told it. 1 look fierce, they tell me, Mr. Jones, but 
I am very tendah hearted. I would n't cause a shivah of 
pain to man, woman, or child, and I would n't hahm 
even a snail. You use words too big for me ; I can't 
answer you aftah the same style, but, as old General 
Haydon, of Virginia, used to say : ' It don't mattah 
much about the grammah so we get the sense.' I 
reckon, Mr. Jones, that I kin tell a story about as well 
as you kin, but I can't talk in a general way as you do 
about unseen things. I must relate something about 
what my eyes have looked at ; I can't sling in high- 
toned words either : but if any man undertakes to beat 
me in stating plain facts 'bout what he knows, you kin 
bet, suh, he has got to speak straight. Folks can undah- 
stand Richard Luridson without a dictionary. 

" I agree with you. Reverend, when you say that no 
fellah knows just when he is going to hand in his tickets, 
and to all of us the thought of death is damnably un- 
pleasant. My heart is tendah, I '11 swear to it gentle- 
men ; I ain't to blame if my beard is stiff. The heart 
of a hard-shelled turtle is as soft to the touch as that of 
a mouse, suh. Once when I shot a wild pigeon, an 
innocent little bird, and picked the creature up, it turned 
its little head towards me and looked me in the eye. 
What cause had I to take that small life ? a life sacri- 
ficed for a mouthful of black meat ^ Pahson, you may 
believe me or not, but that was a cruelty my tendah 
heart throbs over yet. But I ain't a coward, Mr. Jones ; 
there is a distinction between brutality and bravery, and 

56 



The Story of the Colonel 

when it comes tc a fight I am always on hand. I have 
seen pious-like men of the church, more cruel than I 
am. I have known deacons who kneel in the ' Amen ' 
corner, hunt all day Saturday with a gun, seeking a covey 
of harmless quail, and shoot them down like flies, — take 
the lives of these helpless creatures that nevah insulted 
any man ; and the next Sabbath these same pious fellahs 
sit in church trying to look like angels while the preacher 
reads out of the Good Book, ' Thou shalt not kill ! ' I am 
a consistent man. Judge," continued the colonel, " I don't 
pertend to be religious, but I do claim that I am con- 
sistent J and while my heart is very tendah, as I have 
admitted, yet no man dare insult me." 

" While you were reading your sober rigmarole, 
Pahson, 1 wah thinking ofF and on of a case in which I 
wah consarned in ole Virginia, and jest when you stopped 
and looked up I had reached the p'int where I seized the 
gullet of the critter ; and as you lowered the papah and 
looked me in the eye, it seemed as though that same 
young fellow's face rose up befoah me. But pshaw ! 
what 's the use of thinking about things that hev passed 
away ? That fellow brought his punishment on his 
own head." 

The colonel lapsed into silence and stared at the stove. 

" Tell us all about it, or let Mr. Jones finish his 
essay," requested the clerk. " Go on with your story," 
urged a chorus of voices. " I relinquish the field and 
beg you to oblige us," added the parson, in a slightly 
ironical tone. 

" Wall, since that day I hev n't talked about the 
episode, fer, as I hev already told you, there ain't no use 
in worrying over the troubles of another fellah, especially 
if the other fellah is dead, and it don 't do no good, 
either, to think about the mistakes that other people hev 

57 



Stringtown on the Pike 

made, and that there fellah made the mistake of his life 
then and there. The blunders of dead people should be 
fergotten." 

Again the speaker paused. The eyes of the judge 
and the teacher were fastened inquiringly upon the par- 
son, who now seemed out of place, yet preternaturally 
calm. " Continue your narrative. Colonel Luridson, " 
he said coldly ; " you have said that you are not a 
coward." 

" I hev kindah gloomy feeHngs to-night and can 't tell 
a story quite as well as I should," resumed Luridson, 
casting a black look at the parson. " Once, ovah in ole 
Virginia, I wah walking along a meadow path smoking a 
cigar, thinking of nothin', as most people do when they 
are smoking, when suddenly I stopped just as I was 
about to step on a great black snake stretched in the 
walk. I raised my heel and stamped the head of that 
sarpent into the earth. I am sech a soft-hearted fool, 
that I can't look back at that display of brutality with- 
out shuddering. Not fer the snake ; no, I hev killed 
hundreds of sech varmints, but fer a little baby snake 
that I then saw stretched beside the mothah — a little 
innocent snake not longah than a pencil. That night 
there was a rain-storm, and I '11 swear, gentlemen, that 
1 lay awake an hour thinking of the poor critter perish- 
ing. I am a very tendah-hearted man and am not to 
blame if my cheek is rough." 

Evidently the vain braggart was loth to describe the 
event of "honour" that he had unwittingly introduced. 

" The story, please," quietly insisted the parson. 

" Wall, it is not much of a story, aftah all, and I kin 
give it in a few words. I s'pose you admit, Pahson, 
that back in ole Virginia there is more honah among 
gentlemen than there is in other places, and begging 

58 



The Story of the Colonel 

pahdon of the persons present, more gentlemen to the 
acre. It don't require book learning in ole Virginia to 
make a gentleman, neithah does book learning make a 
gentleman anywhere, 'though, as a rule, it does no harm; 
but, as you know, ole Virginia turns out gentlemen of 
both kinds, gentlemen bohn and gentlemen learned. I 
b'long to the first class of gents, which, begging pahdon 
of some of the persons present, I considah the highah 
class." 

" The under class," remarked the parson drily, " know 
something about your type of gentlemen. But we are 
all impatient to hear your ' episode,' as you call it. We 
know you are a gentleman, but are waiting for the 
story." 

" Wall, suh, a gentleman of old Virginia, of the first 
class can't be insulted. If a fellah attempts to insult 
him, either the fellah dies or the gentleman dies. In 
either case no dirt sticks to the gentleman, fer his boots 
air on. You see, pahson, there is another phase of the 
mattah when it comes to the question of honah, a phase 
that common people, low-bohn people, cannot raise 
themselves into. The highah strung the gentleman, the 
easiah it is to affect his honah, and to a high-strung man 
the smallah the reflection the greatah is the insult. Only 
persons of the highah order can comprehend this fact. 
Now, up North," and Luridson turned directly upon 
Mr. Jones, " where the finah qualities do not appeah, 
where a gentleman is nevah bohn a gentleman, insults 
air taken that in ole Virginia would be remembered to 
the third generation. Colonel Clough of my county 
killed the grandson of the man who insulted his grand- 
fathah. Not that the colonel's grandfather did not kill 
his man (fer he did), not that the colonel's father did not 
kill the man's son (fer he did), not that the son of the 

59 



Stringtown on the Pike 

man the colonel's father killed had done anything per- 
sonally to injure the colonel (fer he had not), but because 
every killing of that family done by his descendants 
raised the honah of the ole colonel. There hev been 
twelve men shot with their boots on by the descendants 
of Colonel Clough, and I saw four of 'em bite the dust. 
You bet that family proposes to keep untarnished the 
honah of the great colonel." 

Once more the equivocating speaker faltered, and 
once more Mr. Jones, as though determined to compel 
the delivery of the promised narrative, said in a low, 
insistent voice : 

" Your own story, colonel, your own story." 
" Wall, it ain't a long story, and it ain't the only 
episode of the kind I hev experienced. I can 't see why 
I think of this one jest now, either, fer I hev been en- 
gaged in others more exciting, but you seem to drive me 
to it. There wah, fer example, jest aftah I became of 
age, a disturbing character in our parts who went around 
insulting persons generally by asking questions about 
their affairs, but he knew well enough who not to insult. 
He nevah but once touched one of the bohn gentlemen 
of our county, and nevah again did his tongue wag 
about any one. This is how it wah ; one day he met 
one of our niggahs, and in an impudent sort of way asked 
a question concerning our family. Now, Pahson, our 
family affairs air not the public's property, and when 
that niggah told me of the impudence of the inquisitive 
person, it meant pistols, and it wah pistols. It wah n't 
my fault that he would n't shoot, and stood like a mummy 
with his pistol in his hand looking at me when ole Tim 
Warman counted three ; and I guess as he felt the sting 
of the bullet that let out his heart's blood, that he wished 
he had n't asked the niggah of a bohn gentleman whether 

60 



The Story of the Colonel 

his young mastah had reached home safely the night he 
drank too much licker and raised hell in the village. It 
ain't safe to question niggahs about their mastah's 
affairs." 

The Virginian here turned his eyes away from the 
parson, who now stood as if he were an antagonist, de- 
termined not to let him escape. 

" Why do you evade your duty ? " he asked lowering 
his voice. " Are you a coward, Mr. Luridson ? Your 
last episode, not your first." 

Fire flashed from the colonel's eye ; he cast a quick 
glance at the parson, who with folded arms stood facing 
him, and then, as if respecting the cloth of the man of 
God, or subdued by that placid gaze, he turned his eyes 
toward the ceiling. 

" The last affair to this date you mean, Pahson, not 
necessarily the last one. No man knows when he 
may strike a quarrel, any more than he knows jest when 
he may slip off the tight-rope you were preaching of," he 
replied, leering in a sinister way at the parson. *' You 
want my episode, and you seem to want it bad. Now 
you shall hev it, and I call these gentlemen to witness 
that you forced me to relate it. I 'm not ashamed of 
my record, nor afraid to make a clean breast of it, but I 
hev done all a gentleman can do to save trouble, and if 
trouble comes it ain't my fault. 

" This is the way it happened : 

''I hain't much schooling, but I hev enough to ansah 
all the use a bohn gentleman has fer book learning. I 
went to school until I could read the newspapah and 
write a fair letter, and then I found it useless to spend 
more time with books. I did n't intend to write a novel 
or edit a dictionary, and I did n't propose to fool away 
my time on matters that were of no particular value to a 

6i 



Stringtown on the Pike 

gentleman of leisure, so I dropped school and turned my 
attention to foxes and dogs. 

" Wall, that ole schoolhouse stood until this war of 
secession came, honerable as a schoolhouse should stand ; 
but aftah our forces retired and the Yankee lines were 
advanced beyond us, the house was disgraced by this 
damn Freedman's Bureau.^ You would n't believe it if 
a gentleman like myself did n't certify to the fact, but a 
Yankee wah sent to our section and a niggah school wah 
started in the very house where I had carved my name 
on the bench. Gentlemen, a niggah school." 

"Well," said Mr. Jones, "tell us about the '■niggah* 
school." 

" There ain't much to tell, fer it did n't last long. A 
meeting of neighbourhood gentlemen followed, and 1 wah 
delegated to direct that Yankee to close the doors and 
leave the country." 

" Well ? " 

" I laid the case befoah the young man who taught the 
school, and one word led to anothah until, finding that 
he wah determined to persist in his offensive course, I 
told him that he must either close that school or fight." 

" And he fought you ? " 

" No. The long-haired varmint had n't spunk enough 
to fight ; he turned his back, said insolently : ' 'Scuse 
me, please, but I hev this duty to perform,' and shut the 
doah in my face." 

"And you — " 

" Kicked the doah down, seized the stripling by the 
throat and squeezed his life out. I did n't intend to kill 
the boy, fer he wahn't moh 'n half grown ; but aftah I 
got my clutches on his throat and thought of the insult 



^ The Freedman's Bureau was established in March, 1865. 
62 



The Story of the Colonel 

he had given me and saw a niggah's face behind my ole 
desk, I grew desperate, and when I threw him onto the 
floor his face was as black as the skin of the niggahs 
around him." 

"And then — " 

" Nothin'. I wiped my hands on my kerchief, called 
my dogs and left the fool niggahs and their cowardly 
teachah. I had done my duty. I had given the Yankee 
and the niggahs a lesson, and I don't hev no squeams 
now over the episode. If he had been a bohn gentleman 
I would hev shot him in his tracks ; but as it wah, I 
choked him as I would a varmint. Nothin' but a coward 
is ever choked to death. Perish me, if any damn, long- 
haired Yankee shall insult Colonel Luridson." 

" What was the man's name ? " 

" Jones, suh, Jones. Same name as youhself. Pah- 
son, a very common name," he said with a sneer, "and 
a very ordinary man, suh." 

Mr. Jones stood for a moment as if unconcerned : no 
change of facial expression, no movement bespeaking 
unusual interest in the subject so abruptly ended. Then 
he spoke in a soft, low tone, so sweet and mild that it 
is strange his voice could be heard through the roaring 
of the storm that now suddenly flared up — as if the 
closing of the story had been the signal for its tumultu- 
ous onslaught. 

" See," he said, " the clock points to twelve. The 
New Year is upon us ; " and as we turned our gaze 
upon the face of the clock, one by one the husky gong 
struck, each note of the asthmatic cry quivering hoarsely 
until the next peal came. At the last stroke the parson 
dropped upon his knees. " Let us pray," he murmured. 
The building trembled in the tempest, the hanging sign 
squeaked and cried as it flapped back and forth, the wind 

63 



Stringtown on the Pike 

moaned and sung through the stove pipe, the shutters 
banged to and fro, but all were unheard by those who 
unexpectedly were called to listen to the sweet, solemn 
prayer of the man of God. 

He prayed for his suffering country, now in the throes 
of civil war; for the people of the colonel in Virginia; 
and his brave countrymen in the Southern army ; he 
asked blessings on the community in which he, a man 
of the North, then chanced to dwell ; also on his own 
people at home, and prayed for his own brethren in the 
trenches. Before closing he asked God to forgive the 
last speaker, who, a self-confessed murderer, stood unre- 
pentant ; and finally he murmured a prayer for the soul 
of the unsuspecting boy-teacher who, in cold blood, had 
lost his life by the hand of the murderous colonel. 

Then, without rising, Mr. Jones took his note-book 
and pencil from his pocket, and, resting his hand on the 
soft cushion of his vacant chair, carefully wrote a few 
sentences in it. Rising, he tore out the leaf and handed 
it to the village clerk, who was also secretary of the 
church. " Read," he said solemnly, " read aloud, and 
then present it to the trustees." 

" To the Officers of the Strirtgtown Methodist Episcopal Church. 

" This, my resignation, is to take effect at once. No longer 
a teacher of the Word, no longer a mediator for others, I must 
ask others to pray for me, a sinning suppliant. 

•* Osmond Jones." 

Then, standing erect, he faced Colonel Luridson, who, 
undaunted, returned his look with a defiant scowl. 

" Pahson," said Luridson, "Pahson Jones, were it 
not fer youah cloth I would make you eat the insult you 
hev jest given me — me, a Virginia gentleman. At 
youah request, I told this story to please this com- 

64 



The Story of the Colonel 

pany. You hev called me a murderah, suh — me, a 
gentleman of honah, suh. I will not stand the insult, 
pahson or no pahson — prayer or no prayer. You took 
advantage of youah cloth, and you shall eat youah 
words, or by the bones of my grandfather you will sing 
youah next song and breathe youah next insulting pray- 
er in — " 

" Check your wrath," interrupted the parson, without 
the least excitement. " Listen to me. You have told 
your story ; now I shall tell mine. If you are a brave 
man you will not flinch. I have heard your words, and 
you are bound to listen to what I am bound to relate, 
and which, notwithstanding the task you have imposed 
upon me, I shall tell as deliberately as you have spoken." 



65 



CHAPTER IX 

THE STORY OF THE PARSON. 

" TNSCRUTABLE Providence has led us together, 
■*- Colonel, me from the North and you from the 
South. That we are both of one honourable people is 
evidenced from the fact that from Bennington and from 
Saratoga, to the moss-clad Southern glades where Marion 
camped, our ancestors fought for a common cause, free- 
dom for the white man. Shoulder to shoulder your 
ancestors and mine faced the same enemy, each patriot 
ready and willing to die for the land he loved, a land dear 
alike to North and South. Nobler men never lived than 
our forefathers, Colonel ; for while yours, on the verge 
of starvation, were fighting in Virginia, mine, half frozen 
and with empty stomachs, were battling in New Eng- 
land. Thank God for the patriots North and South, 
who gave us a country of which both have great reason 
to be proud. 

" You have given your version of an affair in which 
you participated, you, a descendant of a Revolutionary 
hero who served and died with Washington. You se- 
lected what you consider the proper method of righting 
a fancied wrong, the manly way to maintain the ' hon- 
our' of your distinguished grandfather and yourself. 
Now, I will give the history of the man you killed, 
who, like yourself, was a descendant of a soldier who 
faced the British enemy, and fell near where now stands 

66 



The Story of the Parson 

the monument of Bunker Hill. Notwithstanding your 
different methods of life, neither you who live nor he ^ 
whom you killed can be considered the descendants of 
cowards." 

Either the speaker's voice had insensibly fallen, or 
the storm without had increased in violence to such a 
degree as to overcome its low murmur. The words 
were scarcely audible, and as the last sentence was 
spoken a pause ensued in which one heard only the 
shrieking of the frantic wind. 

" There are good reasons, Colonel Luridson, why 
men cannot see life's duties exactly alike ; and while 1 
freely overlook your extravagant ideas of personal hon- 
our, it is a pity you cannot have equal charity for the 
views of my people. You were reared in the South, I 
in the North. Your land is balmy and pleasant most of 
the year, mine cold and cheerless. Your soil is easily 
cultivated and productive of great returns, our land is 
hilly and covered with granite boulders, around the bases 
of which men search with the hoe to find a nest here 
and there for a few grains of hard, yellow, scrub-flint 
corn. Your winters are so mild that stock scarcely 
seek for shelter, and your herds graze in open air the 
year through ; our winters are so long that when spring 
comes the entire crop of the summer has been consumed 
in feeding a very limited number of animals. You be- 
came the heir of plenty by the result of that battle for 
freedom, in which both our ancestors served so valiantly, 
while it brought to us only a barren heritage. While you 
have been free to roam at will, watching for fancied in- 
sults and cultivating belligerent passions, I have been 
compelled to work unremittingly, and thus our distinc- 
tive environments have created our different views of 
life. Each of us should in consequence have forbear- 

67 



Stringtown on the Pike 

ance for the other. I had to gain a livelihood, and was 
forced to spend the results of my little savings to secure 
the education necessary for the ministry, while you were 
provided for by the property you inherited, and were not 
obliged to labour." 

The parson was interrupted by the grocer, who, ever 
mindful of his guests, stepped forth and heaped the fire 
with coal ; the long-legged clerk, who had never before 
been known to move the relic of a chair on which he 
sat, actually broke the record and hitched it toward the 
stove. Mose, the Jew — patient, pleasant Mose incap- 
able of sarcasm or hatefulness, even when his people had 
been abused by idle-mouthed Gentiles, and whose face 
had never before lost its smile, now drew his nail-keg 
seat a foot forward, even edging himself into the circle 
of Gentiles. 

" Is n't this a fearful night to be on picket duty ? 
God help our exposed brethren of the North and South," 
said Professor Drake. There was no reply, and the 
eyes of the spectators turned again to the actors before 
them. The colonel, now pressing the preacher to the 
climax, as the preacher had previously done to him, said : 

" Let 's have the story, Pahson, not an oration about 
our common pedigree. I don't catch the connection." 

" The story you soon shall have, sir ; I wished to 
show that you and I may each revere the memory of the 
other's ancestors. I wished also to remove the stigma 
you have tried to cast over the man you killed, and to 
say. Colonel, that your honoured ancestor fought for his 
country, as thousands of noble Southern soldiers are now 
doing, and as Colonel Luridson is not doing. Your 
ancestors of Revolutionary fame did not choke stripling 
lads with pens in their hands in behalf of falsely imputed 
insults, sir." 

68 



The Story of the Parson 

Involuntarily the colonel's hand sought his back 
pocket, but as he made the movement two members 
of the Circle sprang to their feet. The parson waved 
them back. 

" Shame, shame. Colonel ! " he said calmly, " I have n't 
even a pen ; besides, I have not told my story ; you are 
bound in honour to listen patiently to my story." 

" Then be quick about it," said Luridson savagely, 
and be careful of youah words, or I won't promise fer 
my temper. Jest now you came near going to the other 
Jones, and ancestors or no ancestors, cloth or no cloth, 
I warn you not to rile me ag'in." 

" I was born and reared in New England," continued 
the clergyman without noticing the insult, "where men, 
women, and children must work for their living, and I 
assure you they consider it honourable to do so. I was 
the elder of two boys, and much older than two sisters. 
Our little home nestled at the base of a mountain spur, 
within a short journey of the ill-fated historical Willey 
House, and there, hidden in a nook that even tourists 
seldom find, the days of our peaceful child life came and 
went. Before our cottage stretched a small meadow, 
through which wound a clear brook fresh from the birch- 
covered mountain in its rear. One corner of this 
meadow was a garden, and included also a small rye 
field, which gave us our dark rye bread. We had not 
much beyond the necessities of life, but we were happy. 
We roamed the mountain side Saturday afternoons,' 
caught fish in the brook and helped our father till his 
little fields. In winter evenings we cracked nuts, ate 
apples and listened to our aged grandmother's stories of 
wolves, Indians and of the revolutionary wars ; during 
winter we attended a neighbourhood school. You never 
beheld such scenes as we sometimes witnessed there ; 

69 



Stringtown on the Pike 

you have never ploughed your way to school through 
waist-deep snow nor slept in the garret under the clap- 
boards and waked to find the snow sifted in furrows 
across the coverlet. 

" Such environments teach us to love one another more 
dearly, bring us closer together, strengthen family and 
neighbourly ties, make our joys a pleasure to others, and 
move others to mourn with us in sorrow, bind human 
lives into one, give to us faith, hope, and charity. 

" You spoke of the fine sense of honour that exists 
among your people, but, my brother, could you have 
been schooled, as I have been, to think of the sorrowing 
friends, the mourning wife, children, or sweetheart, and 
the agony with which love looks into an open grave, 
your ' tender ' heart, which bleeds at the recollection of a 
dying baby snake, would not forget its tenderness and 
gloat over cold-blooded murder in behalf of wounded 
' honour.' " 

As in harmony with these pathetic words, as if to im- 
press their force upon that little circle, at this point the 
building trembled more violently than ever, the storm's 
fury seeming even to bend it out of its upright position, 
and, springing from its seat on the topmost shelf, a glass 
fruit jar shivered into fragments on the floor directly 
between the two upright men. 

But the cry of wind and crash of glass were unheeded 
by the spell-wrapped actors who stood facing each 
other, and the audience began now to realise that these 
two men were personally concerned in both the story 
the Virginian had told and that which the parson was 
relating. The colonel was stoically gazing into vacancy. 
" Thus," continued the parson, " my boyhood days were 
spent until my brother grew to manhood, and my dear 
sisters were in the early bloom of maidenhood ; my 

70 



The Story of the Parson 

aged grandmother, with her stories of the long-ago, had 
gone to eternal rest, and my patient, loving mother, like 
a guardian angel, moved quietly about the house, 
thoughtful of all but herself, typical of thousands of New 
England mothers who forget themselves in their plodding 
life-work. I 'm thinking now of a typical New England 
winter, during which there was never a thaw after the 
opening snow flew ; every day after November first the 
frost crept deeper, every night the cold grew stronger, and 
when the days began to lengthen we had already experi- 
enced winter enough for the whole season. It had been 
decided long previously that I should go to an academy to 
study for the ministry, and each member of our family 
had scrimped and saved for years, in order to gather 
together the necessary means. My devoted sisters had 
even spent several summers as dining-room waiters in a 
neighbouring mountain hotel, adding by this sacrifice 
their earnings to the family hoard. But God moves in 
mysteries; the week after New Year's Day my father 
was kicked by our horse and instantly killed. We were 
drawn to the churchyard by the same horse ; and as we 
bowed our heads about the open grave. Colonel, the 
snow which had been shovelled aside stood on a level as 
high above the earth's surface as the pit before us sunk 
beneath it. Next day the winds swept back the snow 
drift, and a cloak of pure, unruffled whiteness told that 
God conducted the close as well as the opening of that 
drama. God was with me then, but God only knows, 
my brethren, whether the hand of Providence is with 
me now. 

" We returned to our desolate home and spent as 
best we could the remainder of the sad winter ; but with 
returning spring and the cares of the sugar bush our 
sorrow abated, for the duties of life cannot be thrown 

71 



Stringtown on the Pike 

aside even at the behest of grief; and he who best 
serves his Creator looks not backward, as you yourself 
have said, Colonel. Realising that I had no chance now 
for my contemplated education, my ambition was thrown 
aside, and the usual life cares were resumed. How 
long this ran I cannot say, but long enough to give me 
many heartaches over withered prospects. Still, the 
unexpected often happens. Friends, you cannot imagine 
the joy that followed the reception of a precious letter. 
Our Congressman, unbeknown to us, had interested 
himself in our behalf with the Freedman's Bureau ; my 
brother received by mail a great envelope marked 
' Official,' and in it came an appointment as — school- 
teacher — in — Virginia." 

The Colonel, whose gaze had been riveted upon the 
ceiling, shot a quick glance at the speaker; evidently 
he had anticipated the closing information, and after the 
sudden start he stoically resumed his former position. 
Mr. Wagner stopped whittling ; Professor Drake, un- 
comfortable, busied himself in straightening the edges 
of a pile of books ; Judge Elford grimly chewed his 
quid. The pastor stood motionless a moment, appar- 
ently lost in thought, then he slowly took his note-book 
and some papers from an inner pocket and handed them 
to Mr. Wagner, saying : " Please mail these to-morrow 
to the address inscribed on the fly-leaf of the book." 

At these words Luridson turned half way toward the 
wall, and drew his half-closed hand from his hip pocket ; 
an object could be seen in its palm which glistened like 
a bright bar of iron ; a click followed, the hand returned 
the gleaming object to its former place, and the colonel 
stood immovable before the pastor. 

There was a lull in the wind without at this juncture, 
and taking one step towards the colonel, the pastor 

72 



The Story of the Parson 

continued, in a soft, tremulous tone : " Need you be 
told what followed ? A telegram, a sobbing mother, 
distracted sisters, brother on bended knees, alone, in an 
attic room, registering with God an oath to revenge the 
infamous crime and not to relent until the murderer 
had been brought to judgment. Since that day Heaven 
has kept me from encountering the slayer of my brother. 
The fellow fled. Colonel, and you know, brave as you 
pretend to be, that he who stands before me now is a 
fugitive from justice and fears to go back to his Virginia 
home ; neither does he dare to let his honourable Vir- 
ginia countrymen know his hiding-place. You have 
discredited your ancestors, you are shaming the brave 
Southern soldier, and have no claim on the glorious 
mother of States, Virginia." 

The Colonel made a quick motion, as if to strike the 
speaker, but Mr. Jones calmly held out his open hand, 
and in response to the silent command Luridson re- 
sumed his former position. 

" Long," continued the pastor, " I struggled to over- 
come my wrath, vainly struggled to forgive, and at last 
I vowed that while our Master kept us apart no inten- 
tional act of mine should bring us into conflict ; but if 
God Almighty led us to each other I would consider 
that it was by His will, and for a single purpose, and — 
the hour has now come." 

The hand of the colonel sped toward his hip pocket, 
but not so quickly as the pastor's arm sprang out, for as 
springs the tongue of a lizard, too rapid for eye to fol- 
low, so sprang the pastor's arms ; and as a quivering 
sparrow gives one glance of despair, and one only, 
when falls the unexpected shadow of the hawk upon him, 
so gave the colonel one upward turn of the eye ; and 
as the talons of the fierce bird of prey, crunching through 

73 



Stringtown on the Pike 

bone and flesh, creep into the vitals of the death-struck 
bird, so crept those finger-ends into the tissues of the 
colonel's throat, closing the throbbing arteries beneath, 
damming up life's crimson's current until, under the 
pressure of the fluttering heart, blood flowed from mouth, 
nose, and ear, and the very eyeballs turned purple. 

The teacher sprang forward, so did the judge, but loo 
late ; the crime had been committed in the space of a 
a breath ; taken by surprise, they could give the unfor- 
tunate man no help ; the pent-up hatred of years had 
been concentrated in that fearful grasp. That wild 
throwing of the arms, gurgle indescribably horrible, at- 
tempted swelling of the breast, instant blackening of 
the face, frightful upturning of the eyeballs, followed by 
the rush of blood from the mouth and nostrils, were 
sights that haunt me yet. 

As falls an unclasped garment in a heap, so sank the 
Colonel, dead upon the floor. 

Folding his hands upon his breast, the pastor ad- 
dressed Judge Elford : " A murderer has gone to judg- 
ment, a murderer is born for judgment : I give myself 
up to the law." 

Paralysed, stunned with horror by what they had 
witnessed, the members of the circle stood like frozen 
figures, motionless and dumb around the erect parson 
and the fallen braggart. How long I know not, only I 
am sure that from my place in the rear, where I had 
crept close to old Mose, I saw the amazed group stand 
aghast, staring first upon the slayer and then upon his 
victim. 

Next I beheld, as in a dream, that the village doctor 
raised the head of the vanquished man, tore open the 
garments covering his chest, loosened his collar, placed 
a hand upon his breast and kneeled expectantly for a 

74 



The Story of the Parson 

brief period, then with a shake of the head slowly arose 
and pronounced the word, " Dead." " Strange," he 
said, " that a single squeeze like this should be followed 
by death. I have seen men choked until the tongue 
hung out of their mouth, and yet they revived. There 
is no evidence of life in Luridson, however : the shock 
must have burst a blood-vessel in his brain." 

The witnesses of the drama now regained their self- 
control, the palsy passed, their minds were liberated from 
the stupefying spell, and simultaneously several men 
stepped forward. In silence the dead colonel was straight- 
ened out upon the floor and covered with a strip of 
muslin torn from a bolt. A messenger with lantern in 
hand was dispatched for the village undertaker, and old 
Mose volunteered to perform the errand. During this 
period the pastor stood silent, with downcast eyes ; the 
judge sat apparently apathetic, and, obeying a common 
instinct, the members of the circle automatically resumed 
their usual places, waiting for the end of the strange 
New Year celebration. I, however, against my will, 
now that the old Jew, Mose, was gone from my side, 
found myself crouching, shivering next the stove, near 
Osmond Jones, the preacher, who alone was standing. 
Seeing me, he reached down and placed his hand gentlv 
on my head. 

" Child," he said, " would to God you had stayed with 
your mother to-night." 



75 



CHAPTER X 

THE FEARFUL STORM OF NEW YEAR's EVE, 1 863 

THE calm which had subdued, for the time, the 
usually active and sometimes boisterous proceedings 
of the villagers was in impressive contrast with the wild up- 
roar of the winter tempest. The storm raged, if possible, 
with increasing violence in the utter darkness around the 
building in which lay Colonel Luridson's stark corpse, 
surrounded by many who watched, but no one who 
deeply mourned. The judge at last rose, and was about 
to speak, for the very silence had become oppressive, 
when the door of the room was flung open, and old 
Cupe, the faithful slave of the " Corn Bug," with the in- 
coming blast burst into the midst of the company. Daz- 
zled by the brightness, he stared about the room, and it 
could be seen that he was benumbed and suffering with 
cold. His garments were covered with ice, his beard was 
hidden in frost. Catching sight of the physician, neglect- 
ing the bright stove that must have seemed so grateful, 
he impulsively exclaimed : 

" Quick, Doctah, quick, Ma'se am dyin' ; he wan's 
yo' too, Pahson ; quick, Pahson ! " 

The doctor went to the door, stepped outside, returned, 
and closed the strong valve against the blast. 

'' Not this night, Cupe. A man would freeze before 
he could find the cabin." 

" Yo' mus' go, Ma'se Dock, yo' mus' go, fo' nebbah 
will Ma'se lib till mahn'n'." 

*' I will not go this night," said the doctor emphati- 
76 



New Year's Eve, 1863 

cally. " It is better for one to die than that two should 
perish." 

After a period of silence the negro's self-possession was 
restored, and he became again the garrulous Cupe, prone 
to argue regardless of the importance of the message to 
be delivered. 

" Et doan make no difF'ence nohow," he muttered, 
" dah ain't no use in a doctah when deff comes a-walkin' 
in. Niggah signs am suah, but doctah stuff am unsahtin. 
De sign am not t' be disembayed. What fo' did Cupe 
walk absent-minde' like inte' de house t'-day carryin' an 
axe on his shouldah ? ^ Didn't Cupe knowdatsech a 
sign mean' suah deff t' some pusson, an' fo' de Lawd, de 
debbil make him do dat awful ting. An' when Cupe 
t'ink ob de awfulness ob de transaction an' step back t' 
lebe de room, dah settin, in de op'n doo'way wah dat 
dawg Dgawge; an' he jest look up in Cupe's eyes es 
sah'ful-like es ebah a dawg could look, es ef he say t' 
his old frien', *■ Cupe, yo' hab gone an' done it, suah.' 
An' then when Cupe cotch de awfulness ob de 'stake 
an' look down at Dgawge quistionin'-like, de dawg raise 
his head an' open his mouf an' howl long an' skeary- 
like, lookin' all de time in Cupe's face es moanful es de 
young missus in de big house on her dyin' bed look, in 
de long-ago. God save Ma'se, dah am no 'scapin' de 
aftahcomes ob sech signs es dese. De sign in de ashes 
de night dat de boy come out er Bloody Hollah done 
pinted t' Ma'se dead dis New Yeah night. De axe 
sign t'-day done say he gwine t' die, an' den de dawg 
what set in de doo'way an' howl am de sartin sign ob 
deff, case he see deff com'n' ! But de su'est sign ob all " 

1 To carry an implement of outdoor work into the house was a 
sign of death. To such an extent was this believed that the artist 
who sketched the portrait of old Cupe could not prevail on him to 
enter the house with the hoe on which he is leaning. 

77 



Strlngtown on the Pike 

(and Cupe's voice became yet lower and more measured), 
" de su'est sign ob all am dat de cedah tree limbs what 
Ma'se planted am es long es a coffin now — Cupe 
measure dem ag'in t'-day. Yo' kin stay heah, Doctah, 
dah ain't no use in yoah stuff nohow ef deff am in de 
room. De signs what nebbah fail am pintin' t' sahtin' 
deff, dah ain't no good in doctah's stuff now," 

Having thus disposed of the doctor, the messenger 
turned to Mr. Jones. 

" Ma'se wants de preachah. He hab not ax fo' de 
doctah ; he say : ' Cupe, go fo' de pahson, I mus' see de 
pahson.' An' den Cupe say, sed he : * Ma'se, did yo' 
make frien' wid de pahson like ole Cupe say t' do ? ' 

*•' * Shet up yoah black mouf an' go fo' de pahson, an' 
doan wait too long, fo' I feel pow'ful weak-like,' say 
Ma'se, an' he give Cupe sech a look as t' say dah ain't 
no time t' lose. 

" An' de face ob de dead missus rise up, an' Cupe 
heah de words ob de promise he made dat sah'ful night t' 
de honey chile what am an angel now. Den he say t' 
Ma'se : Ma'se, I swear t' yoah deah muddah dat nebbah 
de weddah should be too hot an nebbah too cole fo' 
Cupe ter sahve de chile Heaben sent t' her, but dis am 
de las' time ole Cupe kin sahve yo', Ma'se,' and den 
Cupe lite out an' heah he am. Ma'se Preachah, yo' 
will go, suah yo' will ; de sign mix yo' an' Ma'se Honey 
up wondahful-like." 

The preacher hesitated, but not from fear of the 
storm. He looked at the sheet that covered the lank 
form of the colonel, then replied, speaking more to the 
audience than to the negro : 

"I am not a minister — but — a murderer." 

The negro gazed at him in wonder, then following 
the parson's glance, he stepped to the sheet and raised it 

78 



New Year's Eve, 1863 

cautiously, far enough only to give a view of the face of 
the colonel, and started back w^ith staring eyes. 

" Fo' de Lawd, Ma'se Preachah an' did yo' slew^ de 
colonel ? " 

« I did." 

The negro's self-composure returned immediately. 

" Who 'd ob b'lebed it, Ma'se ! An' yo' so u^eak- 
like. Yo' am a bettah man dan yo' looks t' be, Ma'se 
Preachah, an' ole Cupe knows yo' sahved him right. 
Go t' Ma'se Hardman, nebbah mind the colonel." 

The preacher made no reply. 

" Doan David slew Gliah," Cupe continued : " doan 
de Lawd slew de wicked Belshazzah, doan de people slew 
Stephen in de name of de Lawd an' doan yo' slew de 
wicked colonel case de Lawd want him killed ? " 

The parson looked inquiringly at the judge. 

" Parson," responded the judge, " your resignation 
has never been accepted by the church. You are yet 
legally a minister. The church must accept the resig- 
nation you wrote in order to consummate the act." 

" But the murder ? " 

" That point remains to be established. If this case 
comes to trial, the evidence may show that you acted in 
self-defence. If I am not mistaken the colonel cocked 
his pistol while you were still talking and standing de- 
fenceless with both hands exposed. He half drew his 
pistol before you grasped his throat. If I am correct, 
he now holds a loaded pistol in his hand. Let us see." 
And raising the sheet, the judge carefully drew the col- 
onel's right hand from its resting place, where it had 
fallen partly covered by the coat, and with it came a 
tightly clasped pistol. 

" I saw him draw the pistol," said I ; "it caught in 
his overcoat's lining and got tangled up." 

79 



Stringtown on the Pike 

The judge regarded me curiously. " Do not forget 
what you saw, child." Then, turning again to the 
minister : 

" Another second," he said, " and you would have 
been a dead man, Parson ; self-preservation is the first 
impulse ; you were unarmed and had made no aggressive 
motion. You did your duty, Mr. Jones, and did it 
bravely ; the case is self-defence ; and, whatever may be 
true of New England, you need fear neither judge nor 
jury in Kentucky." 

Still the parson hesitated. 

" Go ! " said the judge in a tone of authority, point- 
ing to the door ; " humanity calls." 

Drawing his overcoat tightly around him, without 
speaking a word, the parson moved to the door, opened 
it, and passed out. 

"De end am not yet," said old Cupe, speaking to 
himself; " de sign pinted t' two men dead dis night, but 
de colonel wah not one ob dem. Heah am one what 
de sign miss. Am de sign wrong ? Fool," he mur- 
mured, " fool nigger, not t' know dat two defFs could n't 
come alone in de face ob sech signs. Ef et am moah 
dan one, et am not two, et am free er seven er nine." 

" Do you remember what the ' Corn Bug ' said to 
Mr. Jones the last time they faced each other in this 
room ? " asked the teacher, heedless of Cupe's mutterings. 

" Yes," said the judge. 

" I have it written," interrupted the grocer's boy ; 
turning to his stenographic book, he read : " ' You 
have n't the spunk of a sick rabbit and you have n't the 
energy of a sleeping possum ; you would n't cross the 
street in a shower to save the soul of a saint, and 
you would n't dare crook your finger in the face of 
a turtle-dove for fear it would get pecked.' " 

80 



CHAPTER XI 

INTO THE STORM PASSED THE MINISTER 

WHEN the door of the grocery closed behhid him 
the pastor paused, turned, grasped the door- 
knob, and stood with his back to the storm. Insensible 
now to external things, he did not feel the raging cold 
outside the room he had left, and gave no further thought 
to the glowing warmth within. He dropped upon his 
knees and raised his hands in supplication ; then, rising, 
he drew his hat firmly down and strode out of the feeble 
light which struggled through the window. 

He did not think of the course he should take — there 
was no path that night. He did not reason his way — 
no power of reason remained. His mind was wrapped 
in despondency, his spirit was lost in anguish so deep 
that this hurricane, the maddest storm American history 
records, was unnoticed and unfelt. There is no other 
explanation of the part he took that night. To have 
attempted thought concerning surrounding things would 
have been fatal to his errand ; to have reasoned would 
have lost him the way. Under such conditions and in 
such blackness to look for roadways, to seek familiar 
objects, to attempt to guide one's self by the intellect, 
would be to walk in circles, turn here and there, stagger 
like a drunken man, stumble, fall, and perish. The 
man did not care to see the way. Sensible neither to 
6 8i 



Stringtown on the Pike 

the cutting hail, the shrieking blast, nor the intense cold, 
he ignored that king of storms. Leaving the Stringtown 
pike, he struck into the fields and moved on. As if it 
were a balmy autumn day, and the breeze simply fanning 
the cheek and cooling the brow, as if life's pleasures 
were before him and happy thoughts behind, he strode 
onward. Presently he turned aside ; something he 
neither saw nor felt blocked the way. A herd of swine 
huddled together crushed one another, each seeking to 
creep beneath the others, striving to press nearer to the 
centre of the heap, vainly trying to escape the piercing 
cold that all night long crept through and through from 
beast to beast, until, when morning broke, not one re- 
mained alive. Scarcely had he passed them by when 
close beside him a mournful cry sounded ; but the wail 
of anguish did not catch his ear nor did it sound again, 
for it was the last cry of some hapless beast that, strug- 
gling, had fallen helpless, and would not rise again. 
Caring not for man nor beast, the pastor moved onward, 
guided by he knew not what, toward a light he did not 
see. Over hills, through the woods, across frozen 
creeks, climbing fences, jumping gullies, seeking neither 
path nor road, he sped. 

At first the shooting hail stung the skin, leaving little 
indented spots, but the sense of pain soon ceased beneath 
the quieting touch of benumbing cold. At first, the 
wind had waved the flowing hair that encircled his brow ; 
but soon the beating hail and congealing frost had 
matted it together and frozen it to his skin and coat. 
At first, his arms and his fingers moved freely ; but they 
rapidly grew insensible to pain or touch and finally hung 
stiff and motionless. The man knew nothing of all 
this, knew not that the creeping cold was nearing his 
vitals ; little cared for life or death. 

82 



Into the Storm passed the Minister 

At last the pastor's eyes were greeted by a slender 
ray streaming through a little window near the door of 
a cabin. He tried to raise his hand and grasp the door- 
knob, but could not. Both arms were numb. He 
shouted, but the cry was lost in the roar of the blast ; he 
listened, but no answer came, only the tumult of the 
sweeping storm. Again and again he cried, and then in 
desperation threw himself against the door, crushed it in, 
and fell forward into the room. He tried to rise, but 
his hand could give no response to his will ; his fingers 
rattled against the floor ; his arms refused to bend. By 
chance, he pressed his heels against a crevice in the 
rough-hewn floor, then he raised his head, next his 
shoulders, and finally, as a worm creeps up, his body 
rose, and at last stood upright. 

Edging along the wall, he reached the swinging door 
that now slammed in and out obedient to the whim of 
the varying blast, and pressing his weight against it suc- 
ceeded in closing it, even to the snapping of the catch. 
Just then the flickering flame in the great fireplace 
flashed upward, lighting the room. 

The cabin was built of unhewn beech logs. The 
spaces between the logs were chinked with stones and 
the interstices had been filled with mud. In the ceiling 
was a square hole to which a ladder reached ; the floor 
was puncheon. At one end of the oblong room a 
chimney-place covered much of the area. A window 
opposed the fireplace, and another was cut beside the 
door. The hearth was made of a single, large flat fossil 
stone from out the creek bed. On that stone stood an 
iron oven, a few kitchen utensils, and in the huge throat 
of the chimney hung a crane to hold the kettle or sus- 
pend the roast. The furniture of the room comprised 
a small table, a few chairs and a bed. On the wall 

83 



Stringtown on the Pike 

hung a brace of horns, a couple of guns, some arrows 
and a powder flask and pouch that once had been in 
service. All this the pastor saw as the fitful fireflash 
glimmered ; for the quickened intellect of the man 
whose life, resting on the edge of one world did not 
reach yet a foothold in the other, comprehended quickly 
all that rose before his gaze. To the dying pastor time 
was precious, and a single flash carried to his brain 
what, under other circumstances, might have remained 
long unseen. 

Then he fixed his gaze on the wan visage of the 
" Corn Bug," who stared back again from the coverlets 
of the bed ; — a face in which only two great eyes and 
a stub nose were visible, for a mass of tangled beard 
and matted, unkempt hair covered all but the staring 
eyes and whiskey-dyed nose, while the body of the 
wretched man sank back. 

The man was not alone ; for Mr. Jones saw another 
form in the shadows, half reclining, half sitting on the 
opposite side of the bed — the form of a child, a 
young girl with dishevelled, flowing hair. She seemed 
to have been startled from sleep by the intruder, but she 
made no movement and asked no question. And still 
beyond these two, on the hearth, in the edge of the 
chimney, so indistinct that it was a question whether it 
were a shadow or a substance, he caught sight of a 
sombre tracing that resembled a human being, and yet 
seemed not altogether human — a dusky mask that 
seemed thrown before and yet might have been a part 
of a form behind. 

The flickering fire started up and sank again, the 
shadows played in dissolving waves about the room. 
The wind without, in unison with the dancing shadows 
within, rose and fell, singing strange songs, which 

84 



Into the Storm passed the Minister 

verberated through the many half-chinked crevices of 
the logs. 

Never had the New England Parson heard the play 
of the wind at midnight in a house of logs, nor had he 
ever gazed at such a scene as this. In that Kentucky 
land, man nor child had ever taken part in such a drama, 
nor, after that New Year's Eve, 1864, has any man 
heard such fiercely wild wind music. The two men 
gazed long at each other, but both held their voices. 

The child broke the spell, and it is well that she did 
so, for the men seemed unable to utter a word. Each 
seemed to have transfixed the other ; neither had the 
power to move. It was a nightmare spell, and as in a 
nightmare the life may flee before the body can be 
induced to move, so, had no living being spoken, the 
spell that held these men might have ended as nightmare 
sometimes ends. 

Impulsively the little girl threw her arms about the form 
of the bedridden man, and then she laid her fair, chubby 
cheek against his rough beard, keeping her eyes riveted 
on the face of the silent parson. She stroked the 
matted hair of the uncouth man, and, searching with 
her face beneath the shaggy moustache, sought to kiss 
his lips. Even the suffering parson could but contrast 
the holiness of dawning childhood and the horrible re- 
pulsiveness of self-wasted manhood. 

The child spoke pleadingly, as she toyed with the 
uncouth visage : " Uncle, uncle, speak to me. Uncle 
Hardman ; " but the dying sinner, released from silence 
by that voice, spoke, not to her, but to the man. 

" Come here, Pahson, come here. I ordered Cupe 
ter find yo', an' the brack rascal did his duty ; he 
said he would send yo' ter me, an' he did. Wall, Pah- 
son, bygones es bygones. I riled yo' once, Pahson, 

85 



Stringtown on the Pike 

but I did n't mean half I said, yo' see, Pahson — come 
closer — we who air bad hev a kind o' hatred fo' yoah 
kind, jest 'case yo' air good an' we air bad ; there ain't 
no other reason. An' when the corn-juice gets hold ov 
us we say cussed things we always half feel toward the 
like ov yo', but don't always speak. Wall, Mr. Jones, 
I asks fergiveness now, and aftah yo' does what I wants 
yo' ter, then yo' must kneel down, an' pray fo' — come 
closer, Jones. I ain't strong now an' I can't speak loud. 
I swore at yo' once, Pahson, an' said yo' dare n't wet 
yoah shoe soles in ice water ; yo' hev beaten the words 
back." 

Mr. Jones moved slowly, painfully across the floor. 
The girl in fear clung closer to the sick man ; the par- 
son saw by the nearer view that the child was very beau- 
tiful, and also by that nearer view perceived that the man 
became more hideous. 

" Pahson," continued the sick man, " in a trunk in 
the loft above es money, gol' an' silver — a fortune. I 
hev seen some ov et, Mr. Jones, gol' es there. Cupe 
says my grandad captured et from a British paymaster 
an' hid et in the chist ; but et don't make no dift'ence 
wha' et came from ; et ain't safe ter ask quistions ov any 
dollah. All I own, land an' money, all but two thou- 
san' dollars, the girl must hev ; write et down quick, 
Pahson, write et down." 

" Where is the paper, pen or pencil ? " Mr. Jones 
asked. 

" I hev been raised with the niggers an' by the 
niggers, too. Nevah had no use fo' papah an' pencil." 

" Then I cannot do what you wish," said the parson. 

" But yo' must do et ; did n't the jedge say the night 
I burned the deed that I must make a writin' will ? 
Ain't this child ter be taken care ov an' the boy ter be 

86 



Into the Storm passed the Minister 

given money ter edycate him ? Yo' must write et down, 
Pahson," he pleaded ; " the end ov the nigger spell es 
here, the nigger spell thet linked yo' an' me tergethah, 
Mr. Jones, an' yo' must write. I can't talk no longer, 
fo' I am very tired." 

" I left my note-book and pencil behind me ; I 
cannot." 

" Can't you write on a slate, mister ? " asked the girl ; 
" I can." 

" She can't write ; she knows her letters, but calls 
makin' pictures writin'," interrupted the " Corn Bug." 

" I can write, and I 've got a slate full of writin'," 
protested the child. 

" Where is the slate ? " asked the parson ; " give it to 
me quickly." 

The child ran to a corner of the room and returned 
with a slate to which a pencil was attached by a string. 
" There, mister, see the writin'," and she pointed to 
the child drawings with which one side of it was covered. 

But the parson could not use the pencil ; his fingers 
refused to obey his will ; he was helpless. 

" Write," said the " Corn Bug," " write, Pahson, er 
I will die without makin' my cross. See, mahn'n es 
comin', et es daylight now, an' Cupe's nigger sign said 
thet with this mahn'n's light I would die. Quick, 
Pahson, I want ter make my cross." 

By an effort Mr. Jones pressed the slate between his 
wrists. " Make your letters, child, as I tell you to do." 
And obedient to his command, she slowly spelled, letter 
by letter, word by word, the shortest will on record in 
Stringtown County, to which as witness the pastor 
managed to sign his name. " Now for your cross- 
mark." 

The dying man seized the pencil, and as he did so 
S7 



Stringtown on the Pike 

the old crone arose, and advancing from out the chim- 
ney jamb (for she was the shadow), stood over him and 
said, partly as an apology, partly to herself, " I'se 
a nigger, but ef signin' ob papahs am t' be done, I 
wants t' see de makin' ob de cross. Cupe, he say, 
' Dinah, doan yo' nebbah let no signin' ob papahs be 
done by Ma'se lessen yo' sees de makin' ob de cross.' " 

With the negro crone on one side and the child on 
the other, the " Corn Bug " made the cross ; and then 
his partly relieved mind reverted to the future. 

" Would yo' pray fo' the likes ov me, Pahson ? " 

But the parson, too weak to rise, near to eternity as 
was the " Corn Bug," shook his head, and murmured, 
" I cannot, I dare not." 

" Can't you pray, Mr. Preacher ? " asked the girl ; 
" why, I can say the prayer my mother left me." 

" Pray for both of us, child," murmured the parson 
with a last effort. Kneeling upon the puncheon floor, 
with her little hands clasped and her child-like face 
turned upward, the girl interceding for the dying profli- 
gate and the wretched murderer lisped the simple prayer: 

Now we lay us down to sleep, 

We pray thee, Lord, our souls to keep ; 

If we should die before we wake, 

We pray thee, Lord, our souls to take. 

But neither of the men heard the end of the touching 
invocation •, before the words were hushed the spirits of 
both had broken their bonds and followed the message to 
the bar of justice. 

The morning light suffused the room, the break of 
the bitter cold Friday morning, January ist, 1864. The 
rising sun's rays paled the fire-flash ; the shadows van- 

88 



Into the Storm passed the Minister 

ished ; the wild winds subsided, and excepting the biting 
cold without and the frozen creatures scattered over all 
the land, no evidence remained to tell of the storm which 
had come and gone. When the door of that lonely 
cabin was opened by the searchers — for searchers 
started from Stringtown with the break of day — they 
found the negress hovering over the embers on the 
hearth, folding in her embrace a sleeping girl. In the 
rude room, on the bed one man lay, and beside the bed 
another man kneeled, while between them, tightly clasped 
in the stiff fingers of him who kneeled, a child's slate 
rested. Over the upturned surface of this slate awk- 
ward words were scrawled, and at the tip of the index 
finger of the man on the bed, him who clutched the 
pencil, they saw the sign of the cross. 



I will to 


Sammy 


Drew, the 


widow's son 


, two th 


ousand dol- 


lars. All 


else to 


Susie, my 


adopted child. 






Joseph 


Hardman. 




His X 


Witness 


Osmond Jones. 



89 



CHAPTER XII 

" LOOK OUT FO' DE RED-HEAD BOY " 

THE spring of 1864 came and passed, the summer's 
sun mounted into the heavens and shone bright 
and hot. Nature and man seemed intent on covering 
and removing as quickly as possible all traces of the 
disastrous storm that closed the year 1863 and ushered 
in 1864. Twisted and broken trees sent out new 
sprouts, which quickly shrouded the staring scars and 
wounds. The balmy south loaned new songsters to 
lurk in thickets that had risen again from where, on that 
fateful night, brush and briar had been beaten against 
the earth. The prolific rabbit had multiplied until once 
more its tracks were seen in the dust of the pike. The 
dove and the yellow-hammer, during the cruel cold spell 
following the storm, had left their haunts and sought the 
barnyard to sit in huddles upon the fence, and feed with 
the farmer's fowls about the feet of domestic animals ; 
but now again the one walked with nodding head in 
the pike dust, while the other pecked and thumped 
merrily upon the topmost bough of the dead beech in 
the forest. Nature in the flush of summer had forgotten 
the painful touch of the dismal winter ; and when in the 
early spring men collected the scattered rails and rebuilt 
their fences, cleaned up the broken timber, and burned 
the useless brush and limbs, they too lent a hand in the 
great scheme of repair ushered in by the lengthening 
days and strengthening power of the sun's rays. Before 

90 



''Look out fo' de Red-head Boy" 

the month of May had passed, scarcely a memento was 
left to tell of the hurricane that brought distress and 
disaster to a continent. Still, an occasional reminder 
could be found imbedded in the luxuriant grass near 
Stringtown ; bleaching bones that but for the storm of 
New Year, 1864, might yet have been flesh-clad, were 
familiar to the sight. 

I stood beside Cupe in the valley of a meadow ; a 
weather-worn skeleton cumbered the ground at our feet. 
Through the strewn ribs crept the heads of a bunch of 
young iron-weeds. The vine of a wild potato threaded 
the eyes of the bleaching skull ; the long grass fringed 
about and pierced through and through the articulated 
vertebras ; a shin-bone with hoof attached moulded on 
the sward. I gave the shin bone a push with my bare 
foot, and a swarm of ants, uncovered by the act, scam- 
pered from beneath, each with a white larva in its 
mouth. I laughed aloud and beat the frightened insects 
with a stick ; the moist earth became a pulp of strug- 
gling limbs and bodies mixed with loam, and under the 
rain of blows the slaughtered innocents were lost in 
common ruin. 

The black man seemed not to observe the act; he 
gave no heed to my multi-crime, but mumbled over his 
thoughts : 

'' De co'ht am not fo' niggers, 'case niggers ain't 
white. Ef a white man am drunk an' a fool, he kin 
sw'ah away de life ob a nigger ; ef a nigger am sobah he 
ain't got sense 'nufF 'cordin' to de co'ht t' tell what he 
knows. What 's de use ob Cupe goin' t' co'ht, an' 
tellin' de truf 'bout de will ob Ma'se ? Cupe am a 
nigger, an' Dinah am a nigger too." ^ 

1 Negroes were permitted to testify in Kentucky if negroes only 
were concerned, but in cases where the interests of whites were af- 
fected, they were excluded. 

91 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Dinah saw your master sign his name to the will," 
said I. 

" But she am a nigger, an' et doan make no difF'ence 
what she saw ; she am brack, an' de co'ht doan take her 
nigger talk." 

" Ain't it queer about that money ? " 

" Dah ain't nuffin p'culiar 'bout et. De witches an' 
sperrits wah out dat night. Fo' de Lawd, when Cupe 
go fo' de doctah de ebenin' ob de storm, de gol' wah all 
in de chist. When de const'ble take p'session ob dat 
chist nex' day — dah war n't nuffin' t' be seen." 

The old negro leaned over and gazed intently on the 
object at his feet. He rested one foot on the skull, and 
whispered: "Dah ain't no use in fightin' Prov'dence ; 
de sign say dat de gol' wah fo' de gearl, an', will er no 
will, et am fo' de gearl. Chile, chile, de sperrits what 
make de sign kin carry 'way de gol'. 

*' Ya, ya," he added, in a hoarse whisper, " es easy es 
t' pint t' what 's com'n' t'-morrah ; an' gloomy am de 
sign what pint t' Cupe an' yo' ! " 

He intent on his soliloquy, I absorbed in listening, 
alike were oblivious to the approach of two men on 
horseback, who, leading a third horse saddled, but rider- 
less, having entered the field from the woods road, neared 
our position. A stick snapping beneath the hoof of one 
of the horses caused me to raise my head, but the noise 
appeared not to attract the attention of my companion. 
The old negro did not raise his eyes from the face of the 
skull, but in a monotonous undertone said : " Dah am 
troubl' fo' Cupe an' yo' too, boy; et am in de air an' 
am com'n' fas.' Tole Dinah t' take good care ob de 
Susie gearl when Cupe am gone, an' Sammy Drew, yo' 
look out fo* de Red- Head Boy." 

Having ridden to within a few steps of us, one of the 
92 



"Look out fo' de Red-Head Bo 



V 



men alighted, produced a legal paper, placed his hand on 
the shoulder of Cupe (who now for the first time gazed 
in his direction) and said: "By order of the Court I 
am commanded to arrest you, Cupid Hardman, and 
secure your person in the county jail." 

Old Cupe made no reply. The sheriff pointed to 
the empty saddle. The black man's stolid face gave no 
evidence of emotion ; unmoved, he repeated his former 
words in a low tone. 

"Tole Dinah t' take good care ob Susie, an' yo' look 
out fo' de Red-Head Boy." Then he slowly mounted the 
horse. The three turned and rode away. 



93 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE ARREST OF CUPE 

MOTIONLESS I stood over the dismembered skel- 
eton. Forgotten was the soliloquy of the aged 
negro, out of mind his story of the past. To a child the 
name of the law is sacred ; in a boy's mind an officer of 
the law stands exalted, above and beyond the ordinary hu- 
man. Slowly the three men on horseback receded in the 
distance, while I gazed at them with hand-shaded eyes. 
Their horses walked with downcast heads through the 
long meadow grass, but when the fence that bounded 
the woods-road was reached and the bars were " put up" 
a brisk pace replaced the walk, and soon the figures dis- 
appeared. Neither of the men cast a look backward ; 
not even when waiting for the dismounted officer to 
replace the bars did Cupe give a glance in my direction. 
Just before their forms vanished in the shadows of the 
drooping beeches a melodious howl arose in the dis- 
tance — a cry that one who has heard the notes of a 
Southern darkey's dog can appreciate — and all was still 
again. Then, and not until then, did I move, but as 
the three passed into the depths of the forest I turned and 
followed a sheep path that led in the opposite direction — 
across the meadow, around the neck of a tangled thicket, 
through a woodland pasture, where, mounting a slight 
hill, I came within sight of a log cabin that rested on the 
slope beyond the summit. Bare and desolate, the trunk 
of a tall, shell-bark hickory tree, with top broken off fifty 

94 



The Arrest of Cupe 

feet from the eaith, stood near by, a relic of the New 
Year storm ! A square enclosure in the garden behind 
the house was marked by a group of little mounds, on 
one of which, shaded by a cedar tree, the grass was 
younger and of a brighter green than on the others ; these 
were the most conspicuous objects about the cabin. 

An aged negress, her head bound in a red bandanna 
handkerchief, sat inside, with a child on her knee. She 
was combing the long, dark locks of the little girl, at the 
same time singing in a rasping tone a weird ditty that 
only persons reared by or among the blacks could have 
understood. Unseen, I stood silent, looking at the two 
figures ; but my shadow striking across the floor caused 
the old woman to turn quickly. 

" Come in off dat doah-sill ! What fo' yo' dare do 
sech a fool ting es t' come t' a fren's house an' stop in 
de open doah ? Yo' bring trouble on de fam'ly suah by 
sech actin' up." 

" Yes," I said, " there is trouble. Aunt Dinah." 

" Come in off dat doah-sill, I tole yo', an' took a 
cheer. Doan make de trouble wussah dan it am, ef 
dah am trouble on yoah min'." 

I entered the room and seated myself on a shuck- 
bottomed chair. 

" Now fo' yoah trouble. What am it ? " 

" Cupe has been arrested." 

The old negress dropped her comb and gazed at me 
in wonder. 

"Spoke ag'in, chile." 

" Cupe has been arrested." 

"What fool stufF yo' gibin' me? What fo' should 
Cupe be 'rested ? De chicken house am full ob fowl, 
de pastyah am alibe wid sheep an' pigs, de turkey talk 
all day t' de grasshoppah, an' de guiney-hen cry ' pot- 

95 



Stringtown on the Pike 

rack, pot-rack ' all night 'roun' dis cabin. De bah'l ob 
flour an' de meal sack am full, an' de fat sides an' de 
hams am drippin' grease in de smokehouse. What 
moah do any nigger wan' ? What lyin' fool wah et 
who 'rest Cupe ? " 

" The sheriff of the county." 

" Lawd ! Lawd ! but wah it not de const'ble ? " 

" No, it was the sheriff." 

" Fo' de Lawd, de case am ser'ous, suah ! De 
sheriff don't trabel 'bout cotchin' niggers what grab a 
chicken fo' de toofache." 

Gradually the gravity of the case dawned upon the 
mind of the old crone, but only to increase her inco- 
herent wrath. She engaged in a tirade of abuse, ques- 
tionings and jabberings in which the sheriff, the law, the 
liars (unknown) who had defamed Cupe, and lastly poor 
old Cupe himself, came in each for a full share of 
vituperation. 

Finding myself neglected, I turned to depart ; but now 
the negress, quieting her jargon as suddenly as she had 
begun, said : " Yo' mus' eat a bite, chile. Dinah mus'n' 
fergit her mannahs even ef yo' did bring trouble. Sit a 
minit an' eat a bite." 

"I didn't bring trouble. Aunt Dinah; the trouble 
came before I saw you." 

" Did n't yo' come t' a fren's house an' stan' in dc 
open doah ? " 

" Yes, but that did not make the trouble, for Cupe 
was arrested before I came," 

" Yo' doanknow nuifin' 'bout sech tings an' yo' ain't 
golified t' speak. De doah-sill sign kin work boff 
ways. Ef a ting es, et es, an' fool argyments ob pussons 
what doan know de sign's powah can't change de fac's. 
Doan yo' stan' on de doah-sill, I axes ? " 

96 



The Arrest of Cupe 

"Yes." 

" Doan de trouble come ? " 

« Yes, but — " 

" De sign wah workin' backward, chile ; close yo' 
mouf wid dese wittles." 

She quickly placed a dish of honey, a loaf of salt- 
rising light bread and a glass of milk upon the clean 
table, and once more I ate in that cabin which it seemed 
my footsteps could not evade. The girl sat quietly and 
eyed me ; did she remember my former visit ? During 
the repast I gave Dinah full particulars concerning 
Cupe's arrest. 

As I arose to depart Dinah asked : " An' what word 
did Cupe send t' Dinah ? " 

" He said : ' Tell Dinah to take good care of the 
Susie child.' " 

Dinah seemed pleased with the trust ; then she 
whispered : " An' what did he say to yo', chile ? " 

" He told me to ' Beware of the Red-Head Boy,' but 
I don't know what he meant." 

" Yo' will know some day, honey ; yo' will know to 
yoah sorrah some day." 

She leaned over and spoke in a low, guttural tone : 
" De day ob trouble am com'n', an' de Red-Head Boy 
am mixed in de ebil sign. Cupe read de omen, an' et 
say dat de Red-Head Boy an' Susie an' yo,' chile, am 
edgin' on t' sahtin deff. Et say dat de Red-Head Boy '11 
die sudden an' dat yo' an' Susie '11 be de cause ; an' dat 
yo '11 die sudden, an' dat de Red-Head Boy an' Susie 'II 
be de cause." 

" How did he read it, Aunt Dinah ? " 

" He read et in de glass, de sign glass what p'ints t' de 
act dat ain't been acted." 

" And what of Susie, Aunt Dinah ? " 
7 97 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" De sighn wah monstrous cu'yus 'bout de gearl. Cupe 
read de omen twice ; et wah monstrous cu'yus." 

"Tell me about it, Dinah." 

" De honey gearl wah alibe suah, but folks looks at 
her es ef she wah dead. She wah suah alibe, an' she 
wah dead." 

" How could she be alive and dead, too ? " 

" Dat am what trouble Cupe. De sign say she am 
dead an' dat she am gone out ob de worl', but suah she 
am still alibe. She wah walkin' an' a talkin' aftah de 
sign p'int t' her bein' gone from out de worl'. Dere 
wah a shaddah on de face ob de glass, de shaddah ob a 
great big Cross." 

" You 're fooling, Aunt Dinah ; how could each of 
us boys and Susie be the cause of the death of one 
another? That cannot be." 

" Deed, chile, I ain't foolin', et am de p'intin' ob de 
sign. Et can't be done, yo' say, but de sign say et mus' 
be done, an' Cupe say et will be done. But de omen 
say dat befo' de fulfilment ob de spell in de time t' come 
de Red-Head Boy mus' sit alone in de cabin ob Susie. 
Lis'en, chile ; dah ain't no harm t' come till he sit all 
alone in Susie's cheer in de night." 

Too well acquainted with the superstitions of the 
negroes to consider seriously this prophetic outburst, I 
smiled and turned to depart. 

The old crone stepped outside the doorway, took me 
by the hand, and looked me steadily in the face. 

" An' Dinah say too, watch out fo' de Red-Head Boy" 



98 



CHAPTER XIV 



COURT DAY 



STRINGTOWN is situated eight miles from the 
" county seat " of Stringtown County, where stood 
the county jail. In order to reach this important spot, 
the traveller from Stringtown follows the Mt. Carmel 
pike to Mt. Carmel Church, and then branches to the 
Turkey Foot road, which follows a creek bed four miles 
to its source. On the summit of this rise stands the 
village honoured by holding the court-house of Stringtown 
County. 

Like other county seats in Kentucky, at the time 
under consideration this was subject several times a year 
to the flow and ebb of a human tide. The tide was 
high in Court week, but during the intermediate periods 
stagnation prevailed. 

At the time of Quarterly Court, in June, from every 
section of the county, on the first day of Court week, 
men on horseback could be seen " going to Court." 
These as a rule started in pairs, or parties of three or 
four ; but as they journeyed onward the byways merged 
into main roads and the isolated groups upon them co- 
alesced until, when the village was reached, a steady 
stream of horsemen came pouring into its main avenue. 

In this county seat, even to the very day before Court 
convened, stagnation ruled supreme. The two grocery 
stores were open for traffic between Court periods, but 

99 



Stringtown on the Pike 

attracted none but home patrons ; the two taverns were 
ready for business, but even their bar-rooms were quiet 
and the long rows of shed stalls adjacent to each tavern 
were empty, and the horse racks in front of the groceries 
and the taverns were vacant. The court-house, built 
like a church, excepting that it was the proud possessor 
of a second story and four whitewashed round brick pil- 
lars in front, stood, the day before Court, with closed 
eyes ; the iron gate was locked, the pepper-grass and 
shepherd's-purse grew high and luxuriant between the 
flat-rock paving stones, and the dog-fennel covered the 
edges and far into the street unmolested even about 
the long rows of horse racks that bounded " Court- 
House Square." 

In the early morning, each hot summer day, a little 
business was done in each store ; the barkeepers found 
occasion to wash a few glasses and bruise a little mint ; 
the barefooted boy drove his cow to and from the pas- 
ture, and a smell of frying ham or bacon and browning 
corn-bread or biscuit hung at breakfast time about each 
residence. But as the sun mounted into the sky a uni- 
versal lethargy settled over the scorching village, and 
not until the slanting shadows of evening fell did life 
reappear. 

The idle sojourner might spend his time in this lazy 
village, and between Court periods, even to the day 
before Court, find nothing more exciting than an occa- 
sional dog fight, unless, perchance, it were a quarrel 
between the owners of the dogs. 

Lazily the sun came up the day before Court ; lazily 
the inhabitants of this sluggish village moved, when they 
did move ; lazily the stray pig meandered along the side 
of the unpaved streets, picking up an occasional morsel ; 
lazily a flock of gabbling geese waddled through the 

100 



Court Day 



dusty road seeking the nearly dried creek bed adjacent 
to the village ; lazily the unshaven barkeeper, with closed 
eyes, sat before the inn on the flat stone pavement in his 
tipped-back chair. One could not easily have found a 
creature in this village that was not infected by the lazy 
sun, which, day after day, crept through the sky and 
leisurely sank toward the earth into the tree tops, glow- 
ing a second through the branches, seemingly undeter- 
mined whether it were not best to pause awhile upon 
earth's edge before dropping over and rolling out of 
sight. 

Opening of Court day brought a change. Bustle in 
and confusion about the tavern. The long dining-room 
tables were " set " by break of day ; the kitchen stove 
was red and furious, the negro servants moved as if they 
actually enjoyed motion ; piles of vegetables, a quarter of 
beef and several boiled hams spoke of the coming feast. 
The freshly shaven barkeeper, with freshly filled bottles 
and a pile of freshly cleaned glasses, no longer sat beside 
the door in the tipped-back chair ; he too was ready for 
action. The iron gates that barred the main entrance 
of the court-house yard were open and the windows to 
that " Hall of Justice " were unshuttered. Even the 
stray geese had moved to other scenes, the wandering 
pig had not been loosed that morning, and the boy had 
come and gone with his cow before the sun had risen. 
The village was awake and the very buildings themselves 
took on a different air — the residents were in touch 
with life again and eager for the coming fray. The 
word fray is not inappropriate, for many were the men 
who had ridden to this court-house on horseback and 
returned home in an improvised spring wagon hearse ; 
many have been the feuds that, argued in the Court of 
Stringtown County's capital by the mouths of the law- 

lOi 



Stringtown on the Pike 

yers, have been settled, immediately after the Court 
adjourned, in the street by the mouths of pistols. 

Men came to Court, antagonists led to enmity by 
some trifling incident, and grouped themselves into clus- 
ters ; one clan went to Jim White's tavern, the other 
went to Jo Sweet's. They stood in separate groups about 
the streets, and scowled, but did not speak when first 
they chanced to meet ; they visited their respective bar- 
rooms again, and grew surlier and thought meaner 
things with each uplifted glass ; now they growled when 
group met group and looked defiantly at each other ; 
another visit to the tavern, and when the antagonistic 
groups next came together their tongues were loosened, 
pistols flashed in the sunlight, and another " case " was 
made for the opposing lawyers to beat the air over at 
the next term of Court. 



102 



CHAPTER XV 

STRINGTOWN JAIL 

INTO Stringtown County Seat from the flat Creek 
road the three horsemen rode leisurely towards the 
county jail. As they passed, a boy swinging on a grape- 
vine that dangled from a hackberry tree near the first 
house by the roadside gave a yell that carried with it the 
information that only a country boy can put into a 
wordless cry. Immediately from the house a number 
of faces peered, some black, others white, and yet, aside 
from the cry of the boy, no other voice was heard. 
Scampering from his place, he ran after the passing 
horsemen, following their footsteps in the dust ; the yell 
of the boy was repeated as house after house was neared, 
and a flash of faces could be seen in the windows -, an 
occasional female form, perhaps with broom in hand as 
an excuse for outdoor appearance, stood motionless on 
the front porch ; a gathering of boys thronged about 
the heels of the horsemen, and old Cupe, well known 
to every person of that village, became the centre of 
attraction. 

Time and again had he ridden on horseback into that 
village unnoticed ; but now, he was stared at by men and 
women, followed by hooting boys and preceded by 
snarling dogs, for each boy owned a dog, which, as his 
young master fell into line, sprang from cover and 
joined the four-footed advance-guard. Thus Cupe, 

103 



Stringtown on the Pike 

with his snow-white beard, his bleached woolly pate, 
his shiny, wrinkled face, his garments of patches of 
many colours, was ushered to the jail of Stringtown 
County. The troop of snapping dogs, that included in 
its membership every species, from a short, bench-legged 
fice to one gaunt coon hound, moved in front; on either 
side of the prisoner rode an officer of the law, while 
behind came the troop of urchins, black and white. 
The advance-guard needed no director ; on they went 
to the blind street that led to the county-jail ; into this 
the troop of dogs turned, and simultaneously arranged 
themselves about the entrance to the jail. Too well did 
they, dumb brutes as they were, know the ending of the 
journey of these horsemen. Then, amid the clustering 
of boys and dogs, the three horsemen dismounted and 
pressed their way through the gaping crowd. A heavy 
knocking at the door brought the " Innkeeper," who 
signed a paper handed him by the sheriff; the form of 
the black man vanished within the gloomy structure ; 
the two officers remounted, and, leading the riderless 
horse, turned back toward the world without ; the boys 
and dogs scampered after them, and the back street was 
vacated by every creature — with one exception. The 
great, gaunt, old coon hound, with lank sides, made no 
movement when the others departed ; he stood with 
drooping ears and uplifted nose silently facing the door 
by which the negro had entered. His nostrils sniffed 
the air, his ungainly tail slowly wagged back and forth, 
his long, red tongue lolled from between two ivory incis- 
ors, and from its tip an occasional drop of spittle fell 
upon the earth. Motionless he stood with eyes set upon 
the grim door; and then, closing them, he pointed his 
nose straight upward, and from his throat a long, plain- 
tive howl arose that, beginning low and weird, reached 

104 



Stringtown Jail 



to a height seldom heard from hound's throat, and then, 
descending, died away in plaintive sadness. Again the 
dog howled and listened ; and not hearing a reply, again, 
louder than before, he bayed the silent door. This last 
appeal seemed to bring an answer, but one that human 
ear could not have caught. Turning from his place, 
the animal crossed the narrow street and carefully 
selected a bed of thick dog-fennel beneath a clump of 
wild black-currant bushes, turned "three times 'round," 
sinking each time lower than before, and then dropped 
upon the earth and curled himself into a heap, where 
with eyes closed, his sentinel nose pointing toward the 
new home of his old master, he lay motionless. 

The jailer conducted Cupe to the second story of the 
jail and halted before one of the back cells. 

" Ef et am pert'nent t' de yocasion," said Cupe, 
" befo' yo' go t' de trouble ob openin' de doah, de pris'nah 
ud ax a quistion." 

" Certainly," said the jailer. 

" Fo' some fo'ks dis heah room am all dat kin be 
'spected, but fo' me, ef et am de same t' yo', a front 
room am moah t' de taste." 

The jailer thrust his key into the lock. 

"Yo' know bery well dat Cupe am not gwine t' make 
yo' no trouble, an' he doan ax no — " the negro stopped, 
put his hand to his ear, as if listening to a sound un- 
heard bv the jailer — it was the mournful howl of his 
old hound — then gave a sharp, penetrating whistle, and 
continued his sentence — " lux'ry. Ef de front room 
am empty, et won't cost yo' nuffin' moah t' open an' 
lock dat doah instead ob dis heah doah. A doah am a 
doah t' de man what opens it, but dah am reasons t' de 
man what rests in de room fo' wantin' t' be behind one 
doah instead ob 'nuddah." 

105 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Well, I don't see what 's the use of growling at this 
room," said the jailer. 

" De fac' am, Ma'se Kindum," said the negro, quick 
to observe that in getting a reply he had gained a point, 
" dat Cupe am not growlin' at de room, but at de place 
de room sits in. Ef de sunshine an' de moonlight could 
come into de room yo' hab s'lected fo' Cupe, dah 
would n't be no sort ob argyment. But Cupe hab seen 
de sunshine an' de moonlight all ob his life, an' he doan 
know jes how long a spell he '11 be heah. Yo' hab 
knowed Uncle Cupe sense yo' wah a chile, Ma'se Kin- 
dum ; yoah chllluns know him too, an' doan knows no 
hahm ob him needah." 

The jailer withdrew the key, led Cupe to the front of 
the building and opened one of the two front rooms. 

With tattered hat in hand the negro bowed and cour- 
tesied as only one of the old black uncles of Kentucky 
could do, but his profuse thanks were largely lost upon 
the jailer, who without a word turned and departed. 

Stepping to the barred window, Cupe remarked : " De 
sunshine an' de moonlight am monstrous thin when dese 
heah windahs am considahd, an' et am cut inter slices 
by de iron bars, but Cupe hain't done nufHn' t' make 
him afeard ob light what shine cleah in de sky er froo 
cross bars eider. 'Sides, he wan' t' talk t' his fren' ; " 
and pressing his sable face against the bars old Cupe gazed 
intently up and down the street. " Et am monstrous 
strange," he murmured, " ef Dgawge Wash'n't'n hab 
gone back on Cupe." Presently his aged eyes caught 
sight of a weed in the opposite fence corner that, as his 
voice sounded, began to vibrate as if uniform blows were 
being struck upon it, and peering at the clump of dog- 
fennel at its base he made out the curled-up form of his 
faithful dog, who, with beating tail, raised nose and open 

io6 



Stringtown Jail 



eyes, was staring at the face of his master. " Yo' am 
only a dawg," said Cupe, " but yo' may hab work t' do, 
Dgawge Wash'n't'n, befo' yoah teef git dull ; put yoah 
head down an' stop yoah tail, an' keep yoah strength 
ready fo' de time ob need." 



107 



CHAPTER XVI 



CUPE IN JAIL 



THUS the jail life of these two friends began ; one 
contented outside the bars, chained by love to him 
within the cell ; the other, seemingly not less contented, 
behind the grating. Loquacious Cupe and howling 
" Dgawge Wash'n't'n " both grew silent under the con- 
ditions of their fate. The negro became sullen and 
refused to talk concerning his " case " ; and all the 
spirit seemed to have left the dog, who lived on day after 
day seemingly without food, but only seemingly, for the 
hound of Kentucky knows how to prowl at night. An 
attorney had been provided by the Court to defend 
Cupe, but the old darkey declined positively, although 
politely, to answer any question or make any statement 
beyond the fact that " es the Co'ht did n't git no 'vice 
from him t' begin wid et did n't need none t' end wid. 
Ef de Co'ht doan know its own business, et ain't fo' 
Cupe t' teach et." 

" But my object is to help you." 

" Then, Mr. Lawyer, yo' may es well spar' yoah 
breff, fo' Cupe doan need no help. He hain't done 
nuffin' t' be 'scused fo', he hain't stolen noh hid no 
money, an' he doan 'tend t' hab no 'scuses made by 
lawyahs fo' what he hain't done." 

" But you admit that the money was stolen ? " 

"Yo' am de man what say so — not me. Ef Cupe 
io8 



Cupe in Jail 

had said de money wah stolen he would help find de 
t'ief. But de fac's am Cupe doan 'tend t' 'fy Prov'dence. 
De law am mighty, but de spell an' de sign am mightier, 
an' yo' kin tear dis nigger's eyes out befo' he will cross 
de workin' ob de sacred spell. De money am gone, Mr, 
Lawyer, et am not t' be seen, an' et will stay gone until 
de sign come right fo' et t' come back." 

" If the sign don't come right before Court opens, you 
will go to Frankfort Penitentiary, Cupe." 

" Dah am honest men in de penitentiary an' t'ieves 
loose on de outside, Mr. Lawyer, an' yo' can't make 
Cupe try t' sarcumvent de signs by no sech argyment es 
dat." 

The days passed. A few weeks would bring the con- 
vening of the Court. Not one word would Cupe say 
concerning the problem as to the disappearance of the 
money, that much-talked-about gold. At last the per- 
plexed lawyer conferred with Judge Elford, of String- 
town, concerning the case, and that personage made a 
visit to the jail and appealed to the stubborn prisoner. 
He was ushered into the cell of his humble friend, who 
appeared to be very much surprised at the honour ex- 
tended by the unexpected visitor, but quickly recovering 
his wonted presence of mind, his first act was to apolo- 
gise for the barrenness of his temporary residence. 

" Yo' mus' 'scuse de poverty ob de s'r'ndings, Ma'se 
Elford, 'case de fittin's ob de room am fo' pussons what 
doan keer fo' lux'ries. Ef yo' had 'nounced de fac' dat 
yo' 'tended t' call, de conveniences would hab been sech 
es de yocasion demands." 

" Never mind the room, Cupe ; I came to talk with 
you." 

" 'Deed, Ma'se, yo' 'sprise de ole nigger ; take de 
cheer." 

109 



Stringtown on the Pike 

The judge seated himself in the only chair the cell 
afforded, and Cupe stood expectant before him. 

"Cupe, your attorney informs me that you refused to 
give him information concerning the lost money. Now 
you know that I am your friend, and I have come from 
Stringtown expressly to advise you to tell everything you 
know about it." 

"Yo' am my fren', Ma'se Elford, 'deed yo' is, an' 
Cupe hab known yo' sense yoah muddah held yo' on her 
knee. When Cupe first saw yo', yo' wah a baby in de 
ahm, an' now yoah hair am white." 

"True, Cupid, true." 

" An' no man in all dis county ebah say a word ob 
wrong 'g'inst yo', Ma'se Elford. Yo' am a fren' t' 
Cupe, yo' say, an' Cupe say, no bettah fren' could Cupe 
hab." 

" Then, Cupe, do as I direct and befriend yourself." 

"An' what do yo' 'vise ? " 

" Tell your attorney all you know concerning this 
matter. You are in a serious position and in great 
danger of going to the penitentiary for life." 

" Yo' doan mean it, Ma'se Elford ? " Cupe said 
appealingly. 

" Yes, I mean that unless you tell all you know and 
assist in recovering this money it will be my painful duty 
to sentence you to the penitentiary." 

" Et ain't de pen'tensh'ry, Cupe don't keer fo' de pen'- 
tensh'ry, it am de sah'ful 'vice yo' gib. What hab Cupe 
done t' yo', Ma'se, fo' t' make yo' ax him t' steal ? " 

" Cupe ! " exclaimed the astonished man, " I ask you 
to steal ! What do you mean ? " 

" De money am not fo' Cupe, et am not fo' de law- 
yah, et am fo' de chile. De spell say so, an' whoevah 
bre'k de workin' ob de spell steal from de poo' chile. 

I lO 



Cupe in Jail 



Ma'se, yo' memberlec' de day dat Cupe wait on de table 
when yoah wed'in' wah ? " 

" Yes." 

" An' yo' memberlec' when de missus yo' lub wah 
buried in de earf, he stan' by de grabe wid de strap in his 
han'. Yo' memberlec' what Cupe say den ? Es de 
pahson read out ob de good book an' close de page an' 
raise his eyes an' say, ' Earf to earf an' dust to dust,' de 
shaddah ob a cloud rise sudden like, an' de great drops 
ob rain spattah obah de coffin lid, an' dey keeps a-fallin' 
while de shiney coffin case wah bein' sot down into de 
grabe, an' when Cupe rise up from holdin' de head-strap 
yo' wah lookin' inte' Cupe's face. An' den what did 
Cupe say ? " 

" ' Blessed are the dead the rain falls on,' " replied the 
Judge. " I remember very well how you said that to 
me then." 

"An' so do Cupe. An' when Cupe comes t' die, 
Ma'se, he doan wan' no ebil sign t' follow him inte' de 
tome." 

" Of course not, Cupe." 

" Ma'se, yo' 'spect t' go t' meet de sweet gearl de rain 
fell on when yo' kneel in de yallah dirt an' bow de 
head ? " 
• " God knows I do, Cupe." 

" An' what hab Cupe done dat yo' should ax him t' 
go t' de debbil — what hab de ole nigger done t' yo', 
Ma'se Elford ? " 

"Nothing, Cupid — nothing. I know too well your 
faithful heart to see you suffer as you surely must unless 
you assist the law in clearing up this mystery, which I 
firmly believe you can do." 

" Ma'se Elford, Cupe kin 'scuse yo' de sin yo' ax 
Cupe t' do 'case yo' doan know what Cupe know an' 

II I 



Stringtown on the Pike 

can't see de ebil ob yoah words ; but, de gol' am fo' de 
gearl, an' t' dat yinnercent chile it mus' go. De spell 
am workin' out 'cordin' t' de sign, an' ef de law pull 
Cupe's arm an' leg off, ef et buhn de flesh an' scotch de 
bone ob de ole nigger, no word will he say t' blame yo'. 
Ef yo' be de jedge t' hab et done, no cry shall come 
from Cupe. But when yo' ax Cupe t' bre'k de workin' 
ob de sacred spell yo' raise de debbil t' burn de nigger's 
soul. De sweet missus what die wid her han' in Cupe's 
han', in de long day back, an' a troop ob angels, am on 
de uddah shore, an' when Cupe lay down an' die, an' 
his sperrit go t' de shinin' Ian' he mus' say t' de angel 
missus, ' Cupe did his duty by de chile yo' left, an' he 
Stan' faithful by de chile Susie what come in his place.' 
Ma'se Elford, yo' am pow'ful welcome in de present 
'bidin' place ob Cupe, but ef yo' keer fo' de feelin's ob 
de ole brack man, doan ax him t' steal money from de 
orfun chile, doan ax him t' lose de sweet smile ob de 
deah missus what die in de ole mansion ob de long-ago. 
De breezes ob summer am pleasant t' a brack skin, de 
sunshine feel good t' de wrinkled face, but de pen'tenshry 
am cool, an' de nigger am used t' work, an' ef he die in 
de prison standin' up fo' de right ob de orfun, he will 
step out ob de prison shade int' de sunshine ob Heaben." 

The man of law was abashed and silenced by the 
rebuke of the unlettered negro. He saw that no living 
man could influence the fanatical slave. Rising, the 
judge held out his hand. 

" T'ank yo', Ma'se Elford fo' lis'nin' t' de argyment 
ob de ole nigger, but et bre'ks his heart t' hab yo' go 
widout takin' a drink ob milk er a drop ob sump'n'. 
Howsumebbah, yo' will 'scuse de barrenness ob de 
yocasion, 'case Cupe did n't 'spect sech comp'ny." 

The days passed swiftly. The entire community 

112 



Cupe in Jail 



became deeply interested in the pending trial. The 
large sum of money that had disappeared from the iron 
chest in Cupe's room the night of the hurricane would 
have been a godsend to the attorneys, and the county as 
well, could it have been found, for it seemed that the 
'' Corn Bug " had left no legal heir. So Cupe's anxious 
counsel strove to obtain a confession, apparently for the 
purpose of saving the negro from the penitentiary. 
" Ef de gol' am gone, et am gone, an' Prov'dence doan 
want no nigger t' put in his mouf," persisted Cupe. 
The key to the chest had been found on Cupe's person, 
indeed he did not deny the fact that the gold had been 
in his charge to the date of its disappearance, but still he 
disclaimed secreting the money. At last the conviction 
became general that, realising that his master could not live 
until morning, Cupe had hidden the gold before he had 
started for the physician on that fearful New Year night. 

Immediately after the visit of Judge Elford his home 
was sought by the lank village clerk, who stood nearly 
alone in that he believed in Cupe's innocence, and so 
expressed himself to the judge, Elford made no de- 
claration concerning his own opinion, but said that his 
every argument had been used in an endeavour to induce 
the old negro to disclose the location of the treasure. 
The judge volunteered the information, however, that 
Cupe most determinedly resisted every appeal to assist 
in clearing himself from suspicion of having committed 
the crime. He shook his head when the clerk asked 
concerning what might be the result to Cupe in case he 
remained steadfast. 

"The evidence is circumstantial, but sufficient to con- 
vict him." 

" And is there no chance ? " asked the self-constituted 
champion. 

8 113 



Stringtown on the Pike 

"None," the judge replied; "at least," he added, 
" none that his attorney will think about." 

The clerk looked up inquisitively. 

" No," Elford repeated, " none that will likely be 
thought about." He went to his book-case, took from 
it a well-worn volume, opened it and laid it on his desk. 
Then, as if in answer to a voice calling him, put his 
hand to his ear and listened. " I shall return in a few 
moments," he remarked, and passed from the room. 

There was no intimation in the tone of the judge 
that a connection could be drawn between the legal 
document he had opened and the case of Cupe. 
Apparently the book had been taken from the shelf with 
an object that had no bearing on the presence of the 
clerk. And yet Mr. Wagner felt that in this book was 
the clue that Cupe's attorney would overlook and that 
the judge could not honourably mention. He moved 
to the open volume, and glanced at the heading of the 
page. It was a report of a case in the Barren County 
Circuit Court, but the heading was sufficient for the 
sharp-eyed and quick-witted clerk, who needed but one 
glance, and then, before the judge re-entered, stepped 
back to his place. 

No allusion was made by either man to the open book. 

" Should you like to visit Cupe ? " said the judge ; 
" you know him well; perhaps you can draw from him 
the secret, and serve the commonwealth where others 
have failed." 

" Yes," replied the clerk ; " I shall go in the morning." 

Judge Elford sat down at his desk and wrote an order. 

' Mr. Joseph Kindimi, Keeper of Stringtown County Jail. 

" Dear Sir : You will admit the bearer, Mr. Wagner, to 
the cell of Cupid Hardman as often as he calls, and permit him 
to remain with the prisoner each visit as long as he wishes. 

(Signed) II4 "J. B. Elford." 



Cupe in Jail 



The clerk bowed himself out, the judge closed and 
replaced the book, and then sat in meditation. " It is 
the only chance for misguided old Cupe, who means no 
harm," he murmured ; " God forgive me if I have done a 
wrong." 



"5 



CHAPTER XVII 

"too slow fo' a coon an' too fast fo a possum " 

A CURIOUS spectacle was that of Mr. Wagner, 
who, after his interview with the judge, made 
repeated journeys to the prisoner in the Stringtown 
county jail. Astride of a mule, his long legs nearly 
dragging the earth, the man of music as well as letters 
patiently rode back and forth. The order of the judge 
gave him immediate access to the cell of Cupe, and his 
visits were invariably of extraordinary length. Not a 
little curiosity was excited in the mind of the jailer, who, 
however, recognising that the order of the judge relieved 
him from all responsibility, gave himself no personal 
concern. The tongues of the village gossips naturally 
were not less active than were their minds ; and every 
morsel of evidence, imaginary or otherwise, concerning 
Cupe and his secret was chewed threadbare. The case 
became renowned. A score of " killings " could not 
have excited the interest which this mystery raised. 
Cupe was the subject of general comment and specula^ 
tion, and could he have known the remarks that were 
made about him he would — providing he was as vain 
and fond of notoriety as at that time were most of his 
race — have been a happy " nigger." Of these remarks, 
however, he rested in ignorance, occupying his time as 
best he could between the interviews to which he was 
subjected by his attorney and the visits of his friend, the 
Stringtown clerk. 

While it is true that his counsel had been appointed 
Ii6 







fe^ 



"Too slow fo' a Coon, &c." 

to defend him, it was no less true that this same attor- 
ney was deeply interested in uncovering the hidden gold. 
The lawyer's personal fees would unquestionably be 
greater if he could be the means of discovering the 
money, and his professional reputation would also be 
increased. So, at last, after all attempts to induce the 
accused to unbosom himself had failed, he decided that 
he would search the garments of the negro for evidence 
of some description, for, possibly, Cupe had something 
secreted about his person that might shed light upon the 
subject. The jailer, on being questioned, said that the 
only search, so far, had been of the pockets of the old 
slave, and that nothing was found therein save a knife 
and some unimportant trinkets. " I shall bring a change 
of garments for the old fool," said the lawyer, " and 
have the patches of the ragged ones ripped apart." 

That afternoon Cupe heard a gentle rap on his door ; 
a key was awkwardly thrust into the lock and hesitat- 
ingly turned. The door swung back, and in the door- 
way stood the youngest child of the jailer, a little boy of 
eight. " Uncle Cupe," said the child, " the front door 
downstairs is unlocked, and you can go home." The 
old darkey patted the urchin's head. 

" De sunlight am monstrous sweet, honey, but de 
shade am s'lubrous, chile. Who tole yo' t' open de 
doah fo' Cupe .? " 

" I jest heard pap and the lawyer talk and say that 
this would be the last day you would be here, and I 
thought I would let you out." 

" Yo' did, chile, yo' did ! an' so it am t' be de las' 
day ! Go back, honey, an' doan yo' nebbah open no 
uddah jail doahs ; keep yoah han' oft' de key." 

" You are goin' to have a new suit of clothes. Uncle 
Cupe." 

117 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Who tole yo' so, chile ? Cupe doan wan' no new 
clo's." 

" Mr. Putter will bring them to-day, and take away 
your old patches." 

" Take de key out ob dat doah, chile, an' hang et 
back on de hook yo' took it from an' doan yo' say 
nuffin t' nobody 'bout tryin' t' let Cupe out ob de jail, 
'case yoah pap won't like t' hab yo' tole it. Shet de 
doah, honey, Cupe am bery comfor'ble heah, fo' de 
shade am good fo' de 'plexion." The negro again 
patted the head of the innocent little one and gently 
closed the door. The key was turned, withdrawn, and 
silence reigned again in the cell of Cupe, who stood for 
a time meditatively. 

" An' so dey gwine t' take 'way de ole clo's, an' fo' 
what? Dah ain't no use in runnin' no risk, Cupe; 
bettah yo' fix de mattah now." 

Stepping to the grated window, he cast a glance across 
the street. " Yo' am in yoah place, Dgawge Wash'n't'n ; 
am yo' ready fo' yoah duty ? " The dog raised his 
head, stood upright and cast a joyful glance at his mas- 
ter. " Stan' still till I tole yo' t' come, Dgawge — stan' 
still." 

Grasping the knee of one leg of his trousers with his 
hand, old Cupe gave a bright yellow patch a jerk that 
tore it from the brown garment beneath, which, strangely 
enough, proved to be perfectly sound. Then he opened 
a slit in one edge of the patch and removed from it a 
tiny iron key. " Yo' is safe now, but yo' will be safah 
wid Dinah," said he ; then he replaced the key in the 
fragment of cloth and rolling it compactly, tied the 
package firmly with a string that was drawn from 
beneath another patch. Stepping to the barred window 
again, Cupe spoke to the dog, who, expectant, stood 

Ii8 



"Too slow fo' a Coon, &c." 

in the position he had assumed upon first hearing the 
voice of his master. 

" Come heah, Dgawge," said Cupe ; " yo' hab work 
t' do now ; come heah, yo' houn'." The dog advanced 
slowly, until he stood with upturned face beneath the 
little window. "Yo' see dis heah jew'l ? " said Cupc, 
holding the roll beneath the bars ; the dog gave a low 
whine. " Yo' am t' carry it home, Dgawge. Go home 
wid it ! " commanded Cupe emphatically. He flipped 
the parcel into the air, and it fell into the open mouth 
of the faithful friend. " Go home t" Dinah ! " com- 
manded his master again ; and instantly the brute turned 
about, gave a leap that carried him to the opposite 
fence, the next carried him over the fence, and then he 
vanished in the weeds in the direction of Stringtown. 

As the dog disappeared the negro turned his gaze 
diagonally through the grating, and caught sight of the 
attorney, who had just rounded the corner of the blind 
street. He was advancing toward the jail, and beneath 
his arm carried a " store " wrapped package. 

" Yo' kin come in ef yo' wants t', Mr. Lawyah," 
chuckled the negro ; " de front doah am unlocked, an' 
yo' need n't knock. Yo' am welcome t' give Cupe a 
new suit ob clo's now. Ya, ya," he chuckled, " yo' am 
a smaht man, Mr. Lawyah, but some smaht men am 
like some dawgs, an' caint cotch nuffin. Dey am too 
slow fo' a coon an' too fas' fo' a 'possum." 



119 



CHAPTER XVIII 



THE TRIAL OF CUPE 



AND SO old Cupe faced the day of his trial. Ob- 
stinately he held to his illogical course to the last 
moment. Perverse in his determination to make no 
defence, faithful to his inherited and loved superstitions, 
careless of the effect his fanaticism might have on 
himself, heedless of the pleadings and scoldings alike of 
friend and attorney, with dogged indifference he main- 
tained the position he had taken from the moment of 
his arrest. The search of his old garments shed no 
lisht on the cause of his taciturnity, and when the case 
was called in court the defence could offer no rebutting 
argument to refute the strong but circumstantial charge 
of the prosecutor. 

When Cupe was ushered into the court room, Judge 
Elford, cold and solemn, occupied the chair of justice ; 
the twelve jurymen, the majority of them white-haired 
farmers, each with a box of sawdust at his feet, sat owl- 
like in the jury-box; the contending attorneys in front 
of the judge frowned from opposite sides of a small 
table that held two piles of books ; before the table 
rested an oblong iron chest, riveted with hammered nails 
that bound to its side several heavy crossed iron hoops. 
The hinges of this box were of hand-workmanship, and 
the massive clasp in front was of hammered iron. 

But few witnesses were called in behalf of the com- 
monwealth, and none for the defence. The witnesses 

120 



The Trial of Cupe 

sat on the front bench, and, contrary to Cupe's former 
assertion concerning " nigger " testimony, Aunt Dinah, 
with the little girl clasped in her arms, sat among them. 
Cupe was conducted to his place in the prisoner's box, 
and seemed the least concerned of those directly inter- 
ested in the case. All eyes were turned upon him and 
followed his every motion, as, indifferent to the gaze of 
the packed assembly, he threw himself carelessly into 
his chair, crossed his legs, leaned over and utilized the 
sawdust box at his feet, then throwing back his head 
closed his eyes and slowly chewed the remnant of a 
leaf of tobacco. Although a prisoner, the old darkey 
was a picture of contentment, seemingly as much at ease 
as a man in perfect freedom of mind and void of care 
might be, his mouth keeping time to his foot, that wab- 
bled gently up and down. The case was called, the 
witnesses were sworn one by one, and as each gave tes- 
timony it was evident that until I arose none of them 
had seen the money. Then the first direct and conclu- 
sive evidence was offered concerning this treasure, and 
for the first time old Cupe exhibited an interest in the 
proceedings. I knew that my testimony was likely to 
be harmful to my old friend, and when the sharp prose- 
cutor, having led me to the discovery of the old land 
deed, next asked if Cupe had exhibited any of the coin, 
I hesitated. Then it was that the foot of the darkey 
ceased to vibrate, the closed eyes opened, and before the 
judge or counsel could anticipate the words he kindly 
said : " Tole de truff, chile." 

A sharp rap from the gavel of the judge was not 
enough to silence the old negro, who repeated : 
" Tole de truff an' shun de debbil, chile." 
And so the story of how I had seen the layer of coin 
in the trunk was told, the words that could only help to 

121 



Stringtown on the Pike 

sentence the old man to the penitentiary. One by one 
the threads of the web had been drawn by the prose- 
cutor ; the existence of the money was proven, and the 
facts that it had been in Cupe's charge, and that the 
box was locked when the key, which had then been used 
to unlock it, was taken from him the morning of the 
storm, were also laid before the jury. The astute mind 
of Cupe caught each thread of the testimony ; he could 
not fail to see, when the witness bench was cleared of 
all except Dinah and the child by her side, that his case 
was hopeless. Yet he gave no evidence of despair, but 
with half-closed eyes sat as if his part were that of an 
unconcerned listener. 

At last the prosecutor called the name of Dinah 
Hardman, who arose and advanced to the stand. Won- 
der expressed itself on the face of Cupe, who mumbled : 
*' Fo' de Lawd, an' yo' doan 'tend t' let dat nigger 
swoah ! " This was the view taken by the defence 
also, for a lengthy argument followed, in which the two 
piles of reference books were nearly demolished by op- 
posing counsel. At last the judge gave his decision, to 
the effect that while the case was one in which the com- 
monwealth was deeply concerned, still no white person 
was likely to be injured or defamed by the unusual pro- 
ceeding. It was really a case in which negroes would 
testify on each side, and the Court which proposed to 
allow Cupe to tell his story would not exclude the tes- 
timony of Dinah. 

Alas, poor Cupe ! Dinah, his faithful wife, corrob- 
orated the evidence I had given concerning the incident 
in the cabin to the very point where I had hesitated, and 
then she too wavered. It is hard to force a wife to 
speak the word that consigns her husband to the peni- 
tentiary, and even the judge seemed to feel the injustice 

122 



The Trial of Cupe 

of the law. He was saved the painful duty of issuing 
the command, however, for once again the prisoner in- 
terrupted the proceedings : 

" Tole de truff, Dinah." 

This time the gavel of the judge was laid gently on 
the desk, and he said kindly : " Speak, Dinah." 

And when Dinah had spoken, all doubt concerning 
the matter was at an end ; the gold I had testified to 
have seen in the chest was shown to have been in it to 
the night of Cupe's departure ; the key had been in 
Cupe's possession from the time the chest was placed 
in his charge to the time it was handed by him to the 
constable. 

The witness bench was now clear, the case of the 
commonwealth had been made out, the prosecution 
rested, and old Cupe's doom was about to be sealed. 
Nothing the defence might offer could save him from 
the penitentiary. He remained with head thrown back, 
his mouth and feet moving in unison, his guileless face 
as free from care as when he rested on the corn-shuck 
chair before his cabin door after a hard day's work in 
the coolness of a summer evening. 

The closing words of the commonwealth's attorney 
— " We now rest our case " — came at last. The 
audience drew a long breath, the jurymen as by a single 
thought changed their positions, and it could have been 
observed that a huge plug of tobacco and the bright 
jack-knife of the foreman passed successively from man 
to man through the jury box and that without exception 
a liberal slice was cut from it by each juryman, all glad 
of an opportunity to exchange an old quid for a new 
one. Several persons in the audience left the room at 
this point, but remained away no longer than it might 
have taken them to go to the nearest tavern and return ; 

123 



Stringtown on the Pike 

and in a few moments the lawyer for the defence arose 
and made his opening speech, maricedly brief, in which 
he laid great stress on the past record of the defendant 
rather than on the strength of his case. 

He admitted to the judge that his only witnesses would 
be those who would testify to the honesty of the prisoner 
and to his good character, and, waving his hand over 
the audience, he added : " I make no distinction in the 
personality of the witnesses, any of the gentlemen from 
Stringtown will serve the defence." 

His plea for sympathy was adroitly expressed, but the 
judge ruled out all such evidence, stating that the charge 
against Cupe was specific and that direct rebuttal of the 
commonwealth's evidence would be necessary. This 
ruling, certainly anticipated by the counsel, left him 
without any defence whatever other than the statement 
of the erratic prisoner, who might be expected to convict 
himself rather than prove his innocence. 

Cupe sat with closed eyes, uplifted face, wabbling 
foot and working mouth ; but he was not asleep, for 
when his name was called by the clerk he rose, held up 
his hand and was sworn. Then occurred an innova- 
tion in the history of that court, for the judge arose 
and delivered a terse, unusual address to the opposing 
attorneys. 

"The Court proposes that this witness shall be given 
the privilege of telling his story in his own way and 
without any interruption whatever from either opposing 
or friendly counsel. The defendant is not versed in 
technical terms, and might readily be led or driven to 
do himself a wrong if an attempt were made either to 
guide or disturb his speech. In the case under consider- 
ation — a very important one to the commonwealth — 
the object is to discover the gold as well as to convict 

124 



The Trial of Cupe 

the thief. The evidence introduced by the common- 
wealth has clearly established the existence of a large 
treasure, but no ray of light has been thrown on its pre- 
sent location, and Cupe is evidently the only person in 
a position to serve the State by revealing the truth. He 
can lighten his sentence by doing so." In conclusion, 
the judge called attention to the fact that Cupe stood 
alone, with all the world against him, and that under the 
circumstances he must be given full liberty to speak at 
length ; and, " if any questions are to be asked of him," 
the judge added, " I shall propound them to the satisfac- 
tion of both plaintiff and defence. Are you willing, 
gentlemen ? " he asked of the two lawyers ; and both 
answered in the affirmative, as well they both might, for 
neither the case of the commonwealth nor his own case 
could be injured by the negro. 

"Cupid," said the judge, "you may speak now; tell 
these gentlemen all you know about this subject, and re- 
member, Cupid, you have sworn before God Almighty to 
tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." 

Looking the judge in the face, Cupe removed the 
shredded fragment of tobacco from the rubber-like lips 
that covered his toothless gums. 

" Yo' is bery condescendin', Jedge," he said, " t' gib 
an ole nigger de 'spicuity ob dis yocasion. Howsum- 
ebbah, it won't take long t' spoke all he hab t' say con- 
sarnin' de case yo' am 'nquirin* 'bout. Dese heah 
gem'n an' ladies what hab spoken befo' hab lef ' mighty 
little fo' Cupe t' talk 'bout, 'less it be de ole chist, which, 
'cep'n' Dinah, Cupe am de only pusson who undahstan's. 
Dey hab tole monstrous straight stories, dese gem'n an' 
ladies, an' Cupe kin sahtify t' de correc'ness ob dere 
statements an' et 'fords him pleasure t' say dat de trufF 
am in dem all." 

125 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" The old fool ! " the prisoner's counsel muttered. 
But at a look from the judge he refrained from making 
an open interruption. 

" Begin with the last time you saw the gold and tell 
us all you know about its loss. Never mind what 
others have said." 

" Wall, Ma'se, de las' time I saw de gol' wah as 
follahs : Ma'se Hardman wah growin' pow'ful weak de 
las' day ob de yeah, an' Cupe knowed dat de nex' 
mahn'n' 'ud see him a dead man. De signs had written 
dat fac' free times obah. An' den Cupe say t' Ma'se, 
' Doan Cupe ask yo' t' make yoah peace wid de pahson ? ' 
and Ma'se say in his same ole way, ' Damn de pahson ! ' 
An' den he cough ag'in bery weak-like an' look so 
cavahnous dat Cupe spoke ag'in an' say, ' What yo' 
gwine t' do 'bout de Susie chile when yo' lebe de planta- 
tion fo' de uddah side ob Jordan ? ' An' den Ma'se look 
kinder serous-like an' say, ' Brung me some ob dat gol' 
an' let me see et ag'in ! ' An' den Cupe an' ole Dinah 
go t' de lof an' unlock de i'on box, an' Cupe take 
a han'ful ob de shiny crittahs, an' brung 'em down, 
an' Ma'se pick 'em up out ob Cupe's han' one by one in 
his fingahs, an' drop each piece ag'in case he too weak 
t' hole de stuff. An' den he say, ' Put de gol' back, 
Cupe, it am no use t' me now, an' lock de box an' go 
fo' de pahson.' " 

At this point the attorney for the defence arose and 
began to stride back and forth across the floor, and as 
he passed my side I heard him mumble, " The old fool ! " 

" An' den Cupe take de gol' back an' spread it ag'in 
in little piles all obah de bott'm ob dat chist an' pack de 
cotton waddin' close 'bout et." 

Interrupting himself, the negro advanced to the iron 
box, turned the great key, raised the lid and peered into 

126 



The Trial of Cupe 

its depths. He gently turned the box on edge so that 
the judge and jurymen could see its bottom, and then, 
moving his hand back and forth over the surface of 
the inner part of the chest, he repeated : 

" An' Cupe spread de gol' money all obah de bery 
bott'm ob dis chist. It wah five pieces deep an' eb'ry 
spot ob de bott'm wah cubbahed vv^id de shinin' crittahs. 
An' den de lid wah put down keerfully, an' de cubbah 
wah pressed t' its place, an' de key ob de cubbah wah 
turned, an' den dat key wah tooken' out an' put into 
Cupe's pocket." 

Cupe again interrupted himself at this point to mor- 
alise on the chest, but it could be seen that the Court 
was getting a straight story, one that would send Cupe 
to the penitentiary on his own words. 

" An' yoah bott'm wah cubbahed wid gol', yo' honey 
ob a chist ; an' wha' am yoah gol' now ? Befo' de 
Lawd, yo' am a fren' what sticks t' de ribs." The old 
negro peered intently into its depths, he moved his bony 
fingers lovingly over the bottom and fingered each of the 
protruding rivets — he seemed to derive pleasure in the 
touch — giggled to himself and arose, smiling. " Yo' am 
a true fren', yo' ole chist ; why doan de jedge ax yo' what 
yo' did wid de gol' ? " Abruptly turning to the judge, 
he said: "Ax de chist, Jedge." 

" Never mind the story the chest might tell," said the 
judge ; " what did you do next ? " 

" I put on de obahcoat an' pulled de comfort obah my 
ears an' drew on de coon-skin mittens an' stahted into 
de storm fo' de pahson in Stringtown." 

" You did not hide the money ? " 

« No, sah." 

"You started for Stringtown with the key of the chest 
in your pocket ? " 

127 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Wid dis heah key s'cuah'ly in de pocket ob de 
pants," and Cupe held the key aloft. 

" Is that the chest, Cupe ? " 

" It am de chist ; dah ain't no uddah chist like it dis 
side ob Mexiky, wha' Ma'se Hardman got et in de wah. 
Yo' know, Jedge, he fought wid Gen'ral Butlah ob 
Cah'lton." 

" Is there no other key, Cupe ? " 

The old darkey rose up and faced the judge. " What 
yo' ax, Ma'se ? " 

" There is no other key ? " repeated the judge, leaning 
over and gazing intently at the negro. 

For once it seemed as though Cupe's native wit had 
deserted him. He stooped down, thrust the key to its 
place, removed the great iron from its socket, held it up 
to the judge and said : 

" Dah am moah dan a t'ousan' keys in de worl', 
Ma'se ; yo' knows dah am uddah keys ; what fo' yo' ax 
Cupe sech a quistion es dat ? " 

" I mean is there another key like the one you hold 
in your hand ? " 

"Yo' ax es t' wheddah dah be 'nuddah key cap'ble ob 
unlockin' de lid ob dis chist, 'nuddah key like dis key ? " 

"Yes." 

" Den Cupe kin ansah de quistion, case he knows de 
ansah. Dah ain't no uddah key like dis one, dah nebbah 
hab been but one key t' fit dat keyhole sense Ma'se 
brought de box from Mexiky. Ef Cupe wah on his 
dyin' bed an' de fires wah buhn'n' fo' his soul, an' de 
good Lawd should say, ' Cupe, yo' kin save yo'sef de 
red-hot pitchfork ob de debbil ef yo' say dah am 'nuddah 
key t' dis cubbah,' Cupe could n't say de word t' save 
his soul lessen he would lie. Dah am no uddah key, 
Ma'se." 

128 



The Trial of Cupe 

" And so, Cupe, you left the gold in the chest that 
evening ? No person could have opened the chest with- 
out the key, and it was in your possession until it was 
delivered to the officer appointed to take charge of the 
effects of your master ? " 

"'Zac'ly." 

" How could the money have got out of the chest ? " 
The judge spoke severely, and, eyeing Cupe, pointed 
into the empty box. 

"Who say et git out ob de chist?" retorted Cupe, 
"not dis nigger." 

" It is not there." 

The negro dropped on his knees again and gazed into 
its rusty interior. " Suah dah ain't no gol' t' be seen, an' 
Cupe am glad et ain't t' be seen. De sign what nebbah 
lie say de gol' wah fo' de gearl, but ef et could be scraped 
t'geddah by de const'ble et 'ud go into de pocket ob de 
lawyah. Yo' am right, Ma'se Elford, de chist won't tell 
no tales t' de lawyah, an' Cupe hab tole de truff an' 
nuffin but de truff es he swore t' do. Dah ain't nuffin 
moah t' say." He lowered the cover of the chest and 
turned the key. 

Vainly did the judge try by art and persuasion to in- 
duce the old man to add to or detract from his statement ; 
he declined to alter his testimony in any way, but seated 
himself in the prisoner's box, thrust a shred from a leaf 
of tobacco between his lips, where, like a straw between 
two rubber shoes, it wabbled from side to side. With 
closed eyes and see-sawing foot, old Cupe sat silent. 

Then the attorney for the defence arose, and in a de- 
spondent tone, addressing the judge, said : " I submit the 
side of the defence to your Honour without argument 
and throw my client on the mercy of the Court." 



129 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE RIGHT OF CLERGY 

NEVER did the court of Stringtown County con- 
vene with spectators more intensely interested 
and more prompt in assembling. When the clerk made 
the opening cry every place was filled, and even the two 
side aisles were partly occupied by chairs brought from 
the bar-room of the nearest tavern. The universal 
opinion was that the jury must find Cupe guilty ; and 
the only question which perplexed the village was re- 
garding the penalty likely to be inflicted. The charge 
of the judge was soon delivered ; it was short, and so 
clearly drawn as to leave the jury no alternative but to 
bring in a verdict against the defendant. As the twelve 
men filed slowly from the room it required but little of 
the spirit of prophecy to foresee that they would soon 
return. After a brief consultation the jury came back 
to the box, and the announcement was made by the 
court officer that they were ready to return their verdict. 

" Gentlemen of the jury, are you agreed ? " asked 
the judge. 

" We are," said the foreman, and handed the Court a 
paper, from which his Honour read aloud : 

" We do unanimously agree that in wilfully secreting 
a large sum of money which had been entrusted to his 
care Cupid Hardman is guilty of high crime against the 
commonwealth of Kentucky." 

" Stand up, prisoner," said the judge, " while the sen- 
tence of the law is pronounced." 

130 



The Right of Clergy 

Cupid arose and looked the judge in the face. Then 
occurred a strange thing, for a cry from one in the aisle, 
who was standing upright at the back of the room, broke 
the stillness. 

" I ask for justice ! " 

Audacious interruption this, in a Kentucky court. 

The judge looked steadily at the intruder; every face 
was turned in the direction whence the startling cry had 
come ; every face, I may say, but one. Cupe neither 
moved nor changed expression. 

In the rear of the centre aisle, with a leather-bound 
book held high in his hand, Mr. Wagner, the Stringtown 
clerk, stood expectant, and as the eyes of the assembly 
turned upon him he repeated : 

"Justice ! justice ! I ask for justice — justice at the 
hands of the Court, your Honour ! " 

" Justice is the right of him who appeals to a court 
of justice," answered the judge. " For whom do you 
ask justice ? " 

" For the prisoner before you, for the slave, Cupid 
Hardman." 

" Justice he shall have in accordance with the testi- 
mony. Listen to the charge." 

" Hold your word, your Honour. I ask for justice 
in the name of equity, not according to the testimony. 
Listen, your Honour, listen until you hear the statutory 
claim of him who demands the right." 

Bearing aloft the book, the uncouth man advanced 
slowly down the aisle until he stood before the bench. 
Then, thrusting the volume into the hand of the slave, 
he spoke in a deliberate,, slow tone, looking straight into 
the face of the judge. " I claim for this slave, Cupid 
Hardman, the Right of Clergy^ and this demand I make 
in the name of the law of this great commonwealth of 

131 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Kentucky and on behalf of justice, for I believe him to 
have done no crime." 

The judge folded his arms on his chest and not less 
deliberately replied : 

*' The claim is a legal one and accords with the 
statutes of the commonwealth. Open the book, Cupid 
Hardman, and if you can read aloud the Constitution of 
the United States,' the brand may be applied to your 
hand and you may go forth freed from the charge pend- 
ing against you." 

The aged negro opened the book and read (or re- 
peated) word for word the entire Constitution of the 
United States, and, having handed the book back to his 
champion, stood awaiting the next motion of the Court. 

" The brand ! the brand of fire ! bring in the brand ! " 
ordered the judge in a faltering, low tone. 

Turning toward the aisle, the lank clerk again held 
up his hand, which, high above the heads of the people, 
could be plainly seen from the corridor without. In 
answer to that signal, following the footsteps of the 
Stringtown clerk, advanced a figure familiar to nearly 
all who were present — the figure of the old Jew, Mose. 

The habitual, emotionless smile wreathed his glossy 
face, a smile that contrasted strangely with the solemnity 
of the occasion, a smile unquestionably out of place in 
the present assembly. He carried a tinner's charcoal 
furnace fired to redness, into the living coals of which 
was thrust a searing iron such as is used to-day for 
branding beasts. Placing the heated furnace on the 
floor before the negro, the Jew drew the brand from the 
glowing brazier and stood awaiting the next order of 
the judge. 

"Sheriff^ proceed with your duty ! Cupid, holdout 
your hand ! " ordered the judge. 

132 



The Right of Clergy 

The sheriff grasped the hot iron, Cupe extended his 
bare palm, the heated metal came in contact with the 
living tissue, a puff of blue vapour shot from the contact 
surfaces, a sizzling sound followed, and a shudder swept 
over the spectators, many of whom covered their faces. 
A quick cry, loud and shrill, pierced the air when that 
vapour curled upward, and with a bound the little girl 
leaping from the arms of Dinah, sprang between the 
executioner and the victim. Striking up the hand which 
held the hot iron, she threw an arm around the waist of 
Cupe and stood defiantly beside him, shaking her tiny 
fist at the sheriff of Stringtown County. 

But Cupe, with extended arm still held before the 
sheriff, made no attempt to avoid the ordeal. He had 
not flinched, no cry of pain broke from his lips, no 
struggle to escape the brand of fire. 

" 'Scuse de chile, Mr. Sheriff," he said gently, as with 
his left hand he tenderly stroked her hair. " She am but 
a leetle gearl an' lub de ole nigger. Go on wid de act ! " 

"Enough! enough!" ordered the judge; "you are 
free to go home, Cupid ; you are freed from the sentence 
of the Court, by the Right of Clergy" ^ 



1 "The last time this plea was allowed in Kentucky was in the 
Barren Circuit Court, where a negro was on trial for rape before 
Judge Richard Buckner, and as the prosecutrix was a white woman, 
he was sentenced to death, owing to the bitter prejudices of a white 
jury, although the evidence against him was clearly insufficient. The 
learned judge, heartily sympathizing with the poor wretch, thought 
of this plea as a means of escape for him, and instructed his attorneys 
to make it. The negro being tendered the United States Constitu- 
tion, and found able to read it, he was accordingly burned in the hand 
and discharged from custody. The plea was shortly afterward (in 
1S47) abolished by the Legislature." — Sixth Kentucky Law Reporter, 
p. 508. This statute was carried into Kentucky law from England 
where, as is known, the " Right of Clergy " was allowed but once to 
a claimant who was then branded in the palm or on the ball of the 
thumb to prevent a second appeal. Few Americans are aware that 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Many of the audience came to the bondman's side 
when court adjourned and shook the uninjured hand. 
Men praised the negro's fortitude, for Kentuckians love 
a brave man, be he black or white ; and old Dinah, 
mumbling to herself, bound the heroic man's hand in a 
red bandanna handkerchief. At last the room was va- 
cated of all but the court officers, the friends of Cupe 
and the late prisoner. 

" You are free to go home," repeated the judge. 

" Yo' hab de t'anks ob an ole, ign'rant nigger, Ma'se 
Jedge, fo' yoah many kindnesses, but Cupe 'ud like t' ax 
a quistion." 

" Certainly." 

" Kin de chist go nome wid de nigger ? " 

«Yes." 

Cupe made a low courtesy, stooped over, and with 
his uninjured arm attempted to throw the heavy box 
upon his shoulder. The sheriff came to his assistance, 
and by their combined efforts the burden was lifted to 
its brawny resting place. As Cupid left the court room 
the sheriff remarked : " Devilish heavy for an empty 
box." 

The judge made no reply. 

And so the gold I had been promised and on which 
I had built great air castles was lost to me forever. 
With dragging feet I moved from the door of the court- 
house to the wagon of Mose, the huckster, and there, 
with arms clasped over my head, with face hidden from 
the light, leaning against the hind wheel of that dilapi- 
dated vehicle, I sobbed gently and nervously kicked the 
sod on which my tears were falling. The horse of the 

this curious old law ever had a footing in our land. See " Neck 
Verse," usually Psalm li. i, which if the prisoner could read entitled 
him, after branding, to his freedom, thus saving his neck. 



The Right of Clergy 

Hebrew, untied at the rear of the wagon, stood munch- 
ing the remnant of a dinner from the worn trough which 
hung on the back part of the wagon bed ; but I gave no 
heed to the beast, even when its hairy lips were flipped 
carelessly against my cheek. A flock of barn pigeons 
whistled about my head and alighted near my feet, pick- 
ing up the scattered grains of corn that had dropped 
upon the ground from the mouth of the horse, but for 
once my hand forgot its cunning and no stone was 
raised. Aunt Dinah, leading the little girl, passed 
me and climbed into the wagon. Mose placed the 
brazier in the wagon, having previously emptied the 
fiery contents on the roadside, then harnessed his horse 
and proceeded to hitch the faithful beast in the shafts. 
I heard next the footsteps of old Cupe approaching, the 
iron chest upon his shoulder. The chest was deposited 
on the ground near me, and as the negro straightened 
up, the 'bus to Stringtown, filled to its utmost capacity, 
rolled by. A cheer went up in honour of Cupe, who 
waved his bandaged hand in return. As the omnibus 
rattled along I raised my eyes, and beheld near me in 
the tail of the covered wagon a round, red face, sur- 
mounted by a mop of bright red hair : it was the face 
of a boy about my own age. A derisive smile spread 
over the florid countenance, a mouth was " made," into 
which more sarcasm and irony were thrown than can be 
put into any other countenance on earth than that of a 
malignant boy, and a hand, red as a duck's foot, placed 
its thumb on the red nose and twisted its fingers. It 
was hatred at first sight. I, who stood by the wagon 
wheel, forgot my own troubles, straightened up and 
shook my fist defiantly back at the boy in the tail of the 
'bus, and, grasping a clod (no stone was near), hurled 
it at the retreating form. As the vehicle vanished in a 

135 



Stringtown on the Pike 

cloud of dust Cupe placed his hand on my head and 
muttered : 

" De signs am fulfillin' monstrous fas' an' de meanin' 
ob de sign t' yo' am — look out fo' dat Red-Head 
Boy ! " 



136 



CHAPTER XX 

JUDGE ELFORD 

THE following day another interesting trial was 
conducted in the Court of Stringtown County. 
The force of the commonwealth was expended in a vain 
attempt to disprove the legality of the short will of the 
" Corn Bug " as recorded on the slate of the child and wit- 
nessed by the dead minister. Again the judge permitted 
the evidence of the negress Dinah to be taken, and in 
summing up the case, declared that both in intent and 
deed the law had been complied with in the drafting of 
that unusual will concerning the authenticity of which 
there was no doubt, for the handwriting of Mr. Jones 
was well known and Dinah testified that it had been 
drawn by the direct command of the " Corn Bug." The 
property of the " Corn Bug " was not claimed by kindred 
and, other than a disinherited, adopted brother, there 
were no possible heirs in law, for death had ended the 
line of descent. In sound mind and health, Mr. Hard- 
man had openly stated in Stringtown, in presence of the 
Court and others, that the land and all but two thousand 
dollars of the gold (that had no legal existence) was to 
go to the girl. She was his heir, and the Court must 
certify to the legality of the will and appoint an adminis- 
trator for the child. For that office the judge named 
Mr. Wagner, the clerk of Stringtown, who at once 
qualified and received his appointment. Thus when 
time for adjournment arrived that day, the tragedy be- 

137 



Stringtown on the Pike 

gun in the tempest of the dying year, 1863, had closed 
so far as it concerned the present term of the String- 
town County Court. 

When Judge Elford returned to his home, exhausted 
by the cares of the days that had preceded, his form was 
bent more than usual and his footsteps lagged as he 
moved from the door of the 'bus to his own threshold. 
But he made no complaint. And when the kerosene 
lamp was lighted and the window curtains of the small 
front room were drawn after supper, the faithful student 
and unselfish judge sat once more before his desk, which, 
with its bookcase above, constituted the greatest treasure 
of his lonely house. 

Gone were his children, out into the world, — they had 
left him long ago ; gone was the wife of his bosom — 
many years she had rested beneath the sward enclosed in 
Stringtown's white-palinged fence ; gone were the am- 
bitions of boyhood and manhood ; all had been swept 
away by the resistless broom that had brushed the years 
into oblivion. His life had been spent unselfishly in 
behalf of his countrymen and his beloved Common- 
wealth ; no charity had appealed to him in vain, no 
wanderer had gone from his door unfed, penniless each 
New Year found him and penniless each old year left this 
man who spent the material returns that came with each 
season in behalf of his fellow-men, and gave his intel- 
lectual self to the cause of justice. Alone in his modest 
study sat the weary, venerable Kentucky judge, typical 
of hundreds of others who lived thirty years ago in that 
border State. 

And as he sat in the dim lamplight of that modest 
room the record of his years arose before him, bearing 
again to his gaze the mother from out the long, long- 
ago, the boyish feet, the spring of youth, the ambition 

138 



Judge Elford 



of middle age and lastly the closing of life's hopes and 
cares in the edge of the ending that was yet to come. 
And then, as the chain of thought-links closed, he rose, 
took from its place in the bookcase above him the leather- 
bound volume that he had opened in the presence of the 
village clerk, opened it again to the same page, that 
which gave the account of the Case in the Barren County 
Court, and read : " I claim the Right of Clergy for this 
slave." Then Cupe's face came up and the past was 
pictured. Again he saw the open tomb into which the 
casket had been lowered ; Cupe kneeling beside once 
more with strap in hand ; again the face of the old darkey 
was raised as it had been in the long buried past ; the 
raindrops fell, patter, patter; the sound of the vanished 
raindrops, deadened to all but him who sat alone that 
night, came again to life, and the mood-struck man 
heard from memory's chamber the voice of the old 
negro who by his command had been so recently tor- 
tured, gently repeat : " Bressed am de dead what de rain 
falls on." 

Slowly the head of the careworn man fell upon the 
hands that were now crossed over the open volume. The 
aching forehead touched the printed page, and as recent 
events crushed into his mind the lips again murmured 
the sentence spoken over that book, in that same room 
the night of Mr. Wagner's visit : " God forgive me if I 
have done a wrong." 



139 



CHAPTER XXI 

WHY THE HONEY BEE DON't SUCK RED CLOVER 

ACORN-SHUCK chair, tipped back in the sun- 
shine, stood beside a cabin door. Cupe, with 
crossed legs, one foot resting on a round of the chair, 
sat balanced thereon. The hanging foot was beating 
time to an aged violin, keyed to the highest tone, from 
which came the familiar tune : " Run, Nigger, Run, or 
White Man '11 Catch You," a favourite with ante- 
bellum darkeys. The hand that held the bow was ban- 
daged, but that did not disturb the peace of mind of the 
owner or injure in the least the tune he scraped from the 
loved instrument. Near the door a gaunt coon hound 
was peacefully sleeping, his nose between his forelegs, 
the tips of his flabby ears falling to the earth. In front 
of the negro stood a little girl with clean face and 
smoothly combed hair. She was clad in oddly cut gar- 
ments, very prim, stiff, almost fantastic, but faultlessly 
clean. She was enjoying the music, and from time to 
time would clap her hands and dance artlessly and joy- 
ously. The lively tune, quite out of keeping with the 
player's sedate appearance, was accompanied at intervals 
with snatches of songs, of which the following are fair 
samples : 

Ya — ya — ya — ya — ya, 

Look upon de mantelpiece, 
Han' me down my candle grease, 
Grease my cart an' grease my gear, 
Grease ole Ball behin' de ear. 
140 



why the Honey Bee, &c. 

Chorus. 

Dance, chile, dance. An' a walk ole Hogan walk, 
An' a walk ole Hogan walk. An' a walk ole 
Hogan walk, ole Hogan walk along. 
Ya — ya — ya — ya — ya. 

De little bee suck de blossom, 

De big bee make de honey, 
De nigger wo'k terbacky, an' 

De white man spen' de money. 
Chorus. 

Dance, chile, dance, etc. 

When I went down ter Shin Bone Shank, 

De creek wah wide an' deep, 
I put my foot on de grey goose' back. 

An' she carried me 'cross de creek. 
Chorus. 

Dance, chile, dance, etc. 

At each call of " Dance, chile, dance," the girl pranced 
and scampered around in true negro style, and when the 
chorus was over waited expectant for the next stanza. 
Occasionally old Cupe excitedly jumped from the chair, 
holding his violin and bow aloft in his uninjured hand, 
and with characteristic negro step and comical motion 
joined in the dance, continuing to sing. Then, seating 
himself, he changed the tune and sang a few verses, the 
last one running as follows : 

Some fo'ks say dat de nigger won't steal, 

But I caught six in my corn fiel', 
Tied 'em down wid a little piece ob twine. 
Up wid my whip an' I gib 'em ninety-nine. 
Chorus. 

Dance, chile, dance, etc. 

Wha'd yo' come from, knock a nigger down, 

Wha'd yo' come from, Apalackytown. 
Wha'd yo' come from, knock a nigger down, 

Wha'd yo' come from, Apalackytown. 
141 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Oh, Uncle Cupe," chimed in the child, " did you 
whip the niggers ? " 

"Yes, chile, yes, and heah am de string what dey 
wah tied wid. Ya, ya." And old Cupe pulled a slender 
piece of twine from beneath a patch, for once more he 
wore the patched garments of many colours that had 
been taken from him during his imprisonment. 

" Tell me a story. Uncle Cupe." 

" What shall et be 'bout, chile ? " 

" Anything you will tell me." 

The negro cast his eyes about, and they rested on a 
jabbering flock of ducks. " I '11 tole you why de turkey 
say ' tuck, tuck ' an' de duck say ' day, day.' " 

The child clapped her hands. 

" One time de turkey an' de duck git t' yargerin' 
'bout which could wake fust in de mahn'n. An' 
befo' dey go t' sleep dey settle de mattah by 'greein' 
among demsels dat de fust dat wake should tole de 
uddah dat he see de day. Up t' dis time de two had 
roosted t'geddah on de groun', but dis night de turkey 
tuhn his back on his fren'. De ole turkey roost up in 
de top ob de tree, an' early in de mahn'n see de light 
creepin' obah de hill ; but de duck who sit on de groun' 
could n't cotch de gleamin'. An' de turkey called down, 
' Tuck, tuck,' an' de duck wake up. I tole yo', chile, 
dat de duck am a sly crittah. He know dat de stupid 
turkey see de light, but dat de ole fool had n't sense nuff 
t' say so. An' de duck hollah back ' Day, day, day ! ' 
an' he win de bet. Ebah sense dat time " (and Cupe 
looked very solemn) " de turkey hab said, ' tuck, tuck,' 
an' de duck hab said, ' day, day.' Ebah sense dat time 
de turkey hab roost in de tree an' de duck hab sot on de 
earf. Dese birds wah close fren's once, but dey hab 
monstrous little use fo' each uddah now." 

142 



why the Honey Bee, &c. 

The child applauded and said : " Tell me another 
story, Uncle Cupe." 

Again the negro looked about for an object lesson, 
and caught sight of a honey bee sucking a white clover 
head in the grass-plot at his feet. 

" I '11 tole yo' why de honey bee doan suck red clovah." 

The child repeated her applause, and the old negro 
continued : 

" When de Lawd make de honey bee an' de bumble 
bee he make red an' white clovah de same mahn'n'. 
An' de Lawd take de two bees to de iiel' ob clovah an' 
he sot em on de fence an' 'pared t' gib 'em some 'vice. 
An' when dem bees see de clovah patch an' smell de 
honey, dey doan wait fo' no moah observashuns, but make 
a bre'k fo' de blos'm, lebin' de Lawd standin' 'side de 
fence ; an' dis actin' up make de Lawd pow'ful cross. 
An' he grab at dem two bees es dey fly 'way, an' cotch 
de honey bee ; but de bumble bee wah too sharp fo' him 
an' git 'way, an' he hide in de clovah patch. Den de 
Lawd say t' de honey bee, what he hold 'twixt his fin- 
gahs : ' Yo' caint git 'way 'til yo' make up yoah min' t' 
one ob two tings.' De bee ax what dey wah, an' de 
Lawd spoke de word wid be bark on it : 

" ' Ef yo' suck red clovah, yo' can't wo'k on Sunday. 
Ef yo' wo'k on week-days an' Sundays, too, yo' can't 
suck red clovah. Yo' kin take yoah ch'ice.' 

" An' den de bee, he know de Lawd am in earnest, 
an' he debate de subject obah 'til de Lawd git tired ob 
waitin', an' say : ' Ef yo' doan make yoah min' up pow'- 
ful quick yo' 11 git de life squeezed out ob yo' ; ' an' he 
gib dat bee a leetle squeeze. An' den de honey bee 
hollah out dat he choose t' wo'k eb'ry day ob de week, 
Sunday an' all. So de Lawd make him promise not t' 
suck red clovah blos'm, ef he 'low him t' wo'k on Sun- 

143 



Stringtown on the Pike 

day, an' de honey bee hab nebbah suck a head ob red 
clovah, nebbah. But de bumble bee, what did n't make no 
promise t' de Lawd, suck bof red an' white clovah week- 
day an' Sunday." Again the child clapped her hands, and 
Cupe thrust a fresh leaf of tobacco into his flabby mouth. 

" Tell me another story, Uncle." 

The negro shaded his eyes with his unbound hand, 
and gazed intently over the distant hill. " Chile, what 
yo' see com'n' obah de rise on de Stringtown pafF? " 
The girl turned in the direction indicated, and quickly 
answered : "A man, Uncle." 

" Jump down, honey, run t' Aunt Dinah." Cupe 
arose with this unceremonious dismissal and walked 
toward the man, muttering as he did so : " P'r'aps et es 
bes' ef de conbersashun ain't hea'd by de honey chile; 
dah hab be'n bodin' signs ob late, an' et may be bes' fo' 
Cupe t' be alone. Las' night when de moon go down, 
de cheer an' de table creek an' crack, de kettle move on 
de harf, de doah push in an' out, but dah wa'n't no wind. 
De sign wah bad, an' Cupe am suah dat trouble am 
movin' 'bout." He turned back at this juncture, and 
spoke to the sleeping hound : " Yo' may come, Dgawge 
Wash'n't'n," and the old dog, obedient to his master's 
word, arose, yawned and came to his side. 

The stranger was Mr. Wagner, who was warmly wel- 
comed by the negro. Well might Cupe bid him a 
cordial good-day, for it will be remembered that by 
means of the patient instruction of Mr. Wagner, illiter- 
ate Cupe acquired a knowledge of the Constitution of 
the United States, and thus saved himself a term in the 
penitentiary. The tragic occurrence, vivid in the mind 
of the old negro, led him, on meeting the clerk, to ex- 
travagance of speech and to thanks so prolific as to give 
the hearer no opportunity to say a word. 

144 



Why the Honey Bee, &c. 

" An' t' t'ink dat Cupe distrusted yo' when he seed 
yo' com'n' an' feared dat yo' brung bad news. Wah 
dah ebah so mighty a 'stake ! Come into de house, 
Ma'se, an' take a glass ob milk an' see de chile what 
yo' gladden wid de sight ob Uncle Cupe. Et wah a 
mighty close shave, Ma'se, an' t' t'ink dat Cupe wah 
afeard yo' brung bad news." 

The visitor entered the cabin and partook of a drink 
of fresh buttermilk, but notwithstanding Cupe's cordial 
welcome seemed ill at ease. At last he said : " Cupid, 
you are aware, are you not, that I am appointed guar- 
dian for this little girl ? What 's her name ? " 

The countenance of the negro changed in an instant, 
and he gave expression to the oft-repeated sentence of 
surprise. 

"Spoke ag'n, Ma'se. De name am Susie." 

*' I have been appointed guardian for Susie." 

" Yo' hab moah t' say ; go on." 

"You know, Cupid, that this is not an appropriate 
place to bring up a child. You and Dinah have not 
the opportunities necessary to the education and culti- 
vation of the girl. She is the heir of this large farm, 
and should have the advantages of a good education, and 
the company of playmates befitting her station." 

The shrewd negro intuitively grasped the meaning 
of the pointed words of Mr. Wagner. 

" An' why doan yo' let de nigger go ter de pen'tensh'ry 
ef yo' 'tend t' take 'way de chile ? What fo' yo' lead 
him back t' sorrah ? Stan' up, Dinah, an' beg fo' de 
sake ob de honey deah. Yo' doan mean et, Ma'se 
Wagnah, yo' doan mean et ; yo' am jokin' wid de poo' 
ole man. Yo' 'udn't take de blos'm, yo' udn't cave 
in de heaht ob de two ole fo'ks ? " 

" Cupid, I am in earnest. The child must remain in 
lo 145 



Stringtown on the Pike 

my care in Stringtown. Judge Elford appointed me ad- 
ministrator." 

The old slave fell upon his knees, and with uplifted 
hands, with all the force and extravagance of the negro 
language, begged for the child he had raised. " De 
honey am our chile, I foun' de baby an' its muddah half 
starved on de grabe in Bloody Hollah. We wahm et 
by de fiah, we sit up in de night, an' watch obah et in 
de day ; we promise de ma'se what wah t' keer fo' et es 
ef et wah de baby chile ob de ma'se hisse'f. Yo' won't 
take de pritty chile 'way, et am de light ob day t' de two 
ole fo'ks who hain't nuffin else t' lib fo'." 

" It must be, Cupid : for the child's sake, it is best. 
However, you need not feel so disconsolate. Aunt Di- 
nah and yourself will have opportunities to visit Susie 
often, and she can come to the cabin occasionally. Re- 
member, this is her cabin and land, you and Dinah are 
her slaves, and you may have the care of the land and 
live here." 

But explanations and soft words made no impression 
on either of the negroes. Although Cupid did all the 
supplicating, it could be seen that Dinah was not less 
heart-stricken. She stood by Cupe's side and silently 
wept, clasping the frightened child, who did not under- 
stand, yet realised that she was concerned in the trouble 
that had fallen on her two friends, the only friends she 
knew in the world. Weeping she clung to the neck of 
the old woman. 

But the scene finally came to an end, and Mr. Wag- 
ner insisted that the child be given to his care. " You 
may bring her clothes later, Cupe," he added. 

" De clo's will come befo' da'k," replied the old man, 
" but yo' bettah let de chile change dem ole slippahs fo' 
de new pair. Dem wah put on fo' de purpose ob de 

146 



why the Honey Bee, &c. 

dance." The change was made, and then Cupe offered 
no further objection to the decision of the Court. 

Clasping the frightened little girl in his arms her un- 
couth but kind-hearted benefactor retreated along the 
path by which he came. The sobbing child made no 
resistance nor outcry. Cupe stood in the cabin door, 
the violin lay at his feet, the flock of ducks jabbered be- 
side the fence, but were unheard, the bumble bee buzzed 
in the clover patch, but unseen. There was no song 
now in the heart of the forlorn man, no music, no folk- 
lore stories in his soul. His eyes followed the retreating 
figure of the lank officer with the child in his arms, until 
together they vanished beyond the crest of the distant 
hill. Then his gaze turned upon the vacant spot 
where, a short time before, Susie had danced to the tune 
of his merry violin, and a tear sprang to his eyes and 
rolled down his wrinkled cheek — the first tear he had 
shed during the sorrowful interview. Old George 
Washington lay curled up beside the door, and Dinah 
on her knees, holding in her hand a child's plaything — 
a gourd cut to look like the head of a man — moaned 
inside the cabin. '"-An' dah wah trouble com'n'," said 
Cupe; " de sign couldn't lie. When de table an' de 
cheer talk t'geddah, an' de doah move in an' out in de 
still night, et am a sign ob saht'n trouble. But dah am 
deeper trouble yit to come ; when de two boys mix in 
de 'fairs ob de honey gearl, dah am worsah trouble fo' 
Cupe." 

Then he spoke to Dinah : " Git up, yo' fool nigger, 
what fo' yo' blubberin' like a sick sheep ? Doan yo' 
know dat eb'ry fellah hab t' stan' his own toofache ? 
Doan yo' know dat cryin' salty tears doan stop no bleed- 
ing heaht ? Git de chile some clo's, fo' de night am 
com'n' ! " 

147 



Stringtown on the Pike 

A little while later the devoted man might have been 
seen slowly trudging along the path the clerk had trod ; 
over his shoulder he carried a bundle containing the 
clothing of the child ; now at his heels, with downcast 
head, as if he entered into the sorrow of his master, 
walked George Washington. 



148 



CHAPTER XXII 

" GOD MADE DE SIGN'" 

THE home of Mr. Wagner was on the Stringtown 
pike, about one-third of the distance between the 
southern and the northern extremities of the village. 
Its owner was not in affluent circumstances ; still he 
lived comfortably. An unmarried sister acted as house- 
keeper, and it would have been difficult to determine by 
their countenances which was the older. However, no 
question could arise concerning their relationship, for 
the maiden lady, fully as spare and nearly as tall as her 
lank brother, possessed features so similar as to bespeak 
the close family connection. Her face was kindly in its 
expression, and it was evident that Susie had fallen into 
good hands. The thoughtful judge had made no mis- 
take in the selection of the child's guardian. 

To this home, that rested its face against the edge 
of the pike, and its heel-like shed in the narrow lot that 
stretched back to the woodland pasture, the village clerk 
carried the unwilling charge he had taken from the home 
of Cupe. The girl was still sobbing ; she had refused 
the kindly advances of such of the neighbours as chanced 
to be in the street, and would not be comforted. It 
chanced that I stood before my mother's door as, to- 
gether with her new guardian, she passed by, but she 
gave no sign of recognition when I called her name. 
Judge Elford came out of his house and took her kindly 
by the hand, but she buried her face in the shoulder of 

149 



Stringtown on the Pike 

the man who carried her, and refused to speak. The 
sister of Mr. Wagner was alike unsuccessful ; she could 
get no kind word ; the untamed child refused to eat and 
refused to play. She fell asleep sobbing, and was gently 
laid on the little bed that had been prepared for her by 
the expectant and puzzled spinster. Then it was that a 
tap was heard at the door, and on opening it the bent 
form of Cupe appeared. Handing Miss Wagner the 
package of clothes, he silently turned away and vanished 
in the darkness. 

A few moments later Judge Elford was disturbed by 
a similar knock, and opened the door to find the dis- 
consolate negro on the threshold. 

At the pressing invitation of the judge, Cupe stepped 
inside the door, but, in accordance with the custom of 
old slaves, refused to sit down. 

" What can I do for you, Cupid ? " 

" De light ob de cabin am gone, de clouds am risen, 
an' Cupe ax fo' comfo't." 

" But what can I do for you ? " repeated the judge. 

'*• Yo' kin send de man ob sorrah ter de pen'tensh'ry, 
fo' he ain't no moah use heah. Yo' kin do de duty yo' 
spoke 'bout las' week, Ma'se Elford." 

" Indeed I cannot. You have freed yourself from the 
penitentiary by the Right of Clergy." 

" De law am pow'ful strong when a man wan's et 
weak, an' monstrous weak when a man wan's et strong ; 
ef a man wan's t' git out ob de pen'tensh'ry he can't git 
de doah op'n, case ob de law ; ef he wants t' git into de 
pen'tensh'ry he can't git dah case ob de law. De law 
am monstrous cu'yus." 

" But you don't want to go to the penitentiary, 
Cupe ? " 

"'Deed I does, case dah ain't nuffin t' lib fo' out ob 
ISO 



"God made de Sign" 

et now dat yo' hab took de chile 'way. She am white 
an' Cupe am brack ; but de chile wah raised from a baby 
by de brack man ; de ole nigger promise Ma'se Hard- 
man t' keer fo' her 'til deff come, an' he promise de 
muddah ob de chile befo' God t' watch obah her 'til she 
wah able t' keer fo' herse'f. Dese am serous tings 
t' promise t' de ma'se what am dead an' t' de angel 
mammy, an' t' bre'k de wo'd am wicked, an' Cupe doan 
want t' be walkin' free an' not doin' what he say on his 
knees he 'ud do. Ef de nigger am in de pen'tensh'ry 
an de dead ma'se come an' say in a dream : ' Why ain't 
yo' keerin' fo' de blos'm ? ' Cupe kin say back : ' Caint 
yo' see dat de nigger am in de jail ? ' Ef de spcrrit ob de 
muddah ob de chile come floatin' into de cabin an' say : 
' Wha' am de baby Susie what yo' fin' on de grabe in 
Bloody Hollah ? ' what kin Cupe say ef he am free t' 
walk 'bout ? 'Deed, Ma'se Elford, I does wan' t' go t' 
de pen'tensh'ry, an' ef yo' keer fo' de peace ob min' ob 
de ole man yo '11 sen' him dah." 

" Go home, Cupid, go home and sleep. You will 
feel better in the morning. Susie is well, has a good 
home, and will see you often." 

" An' yo' won't lis'n t' de claim ob de sah'rin' 
nigger ? " 

'' I cannot." 

The old negro opened the door and hesitated on the 
sill. " An' yo' caint sen' de nigger t' de pen'tensh'ry ? " 

" No, Cupid." 

" An' yo' caint gib him back de chile ? " 

The judge shook his head. 

" Do yo' see wha' Cupe am stan'n' ? Et am on de 
doah-sill, Ma'se Elford, an' dat sign say bad luck t' yoah 
argyment. Lis'n t' what de ole nigger tole yo' now. 
De law say dat de chile can't lib wid Cupe, but de sign 

151 



String town on the Pike 

say dat she mus' lib wid Cupe — ef she Hb, Ef de law 
am right, de sign am wrong. Who made de law ? " he 
vehemently asked. 

" Wise and good men," replied the judge. 

" An' God make de sign. Do de wise man set hisse'f 
'bove de Lawd ? Ma'se Elford, yo '11 lib t' see dat de 
Lawd am biggah dan de law." 



153 



CHAPTER XXIII 



SUSIE IS LOST 



JUDGE Elford found as the days passed that the 
child whose lot had been cast among the negroes 
refused to be comforted by her friendly benefactors. 
She moved about disconsolate in her new home, spirit- 
less and moping the hours away. She shrank from Miss 
Wagner, she asked for no love, and gave none. To 
escape the gaze of men and children, she would sit for 
hours in the back yard of the cottage, where, secure 
from prying eyes, she spent the time listlessly gazing at 
the sky or the forest in the distance. Neither Cupe nor 
Dinah visited her, and both declared they would never 
do so. The entreaties of the judge and Mr. Wagner, 
even the threats of the latter, made no impression on 
either of them. 

" Ef yo' caint keer fo' de chile, what fo' yo' took her 
'way from de home wha' she wah happy ? Ef Cupe 
go t' see de honey, it '11 only make de mattah wussah, 
fo' she '11 cry her eyes out when he come back." 

" But you can tell her that it is best for her to stay in 
her new home. You can explain to her that she can 
be happy if she will try to forget her past life." 

" An' dah am uddah tings Cupe could tole her what ain't 
true es easy es dat, but de fac' am yo' tire yo'selb tryin' 
t' 'fluence Cupe t' do anything t' circumbent de spell. 
Dah am but one outcome t' dis heah mattah, eidah yo' 

153 



Stringtown on the Pike 

mus' let de chile lib wha' she b'long er yo '11 stan' 'side 
her grabe. De spell say dah am no uddah endin'." 

Persuasions were of no avail. Cupe had a ready an- 
swer for every argument and sat looking as glum as a 
death's-head. Thus the child lived in her new home 
until one morning when the care-worn housekeeper went 
to awaken her, the little bed was found empty. The 
girl had disappeared. The day before she had asked 
some trivial questions, and in the course of her conver- 
sation had referred to one of Cupe's wild sayings. Miss 
Wagner had taken the opportunity to explain that Cupid 
was mistaken in his methods, and that in time the child 
would understand his errors. Susie stood with down- 
cast eyes, from which fell a few glistening tears. It 
was evident that she took the disparagement of Cupe to 
heart. She left the room, seated herself in the sunshine 
of the back yard, and to the time of going to bed did 
not speak a word. The next morning the child and her 
garments were missing. From beneath the very touch 
of her faithful guardian, catlike she had slipped out, and 
into the back yard, out and into the great wide world 
of which she knew so little. Could the sleepers in the 
modest dwelling have seen her that night, they would 
have seen her clasp her garments in her arms, and in 
bare feet tiptoe to the kitchen door ; they would have 
seen her turn the key as cautiously as an experienced 
burglar might do, then, with instinctive forethought, re- 
close and lock the door from the outside ; after which, 
in the light of the rising moon, the artful child dressed 
herself rapidly, even to carefully tying her shoes. At 
last, stealing through the little garden, she climbed the 
back fence into the woodland pasture and ran toward the 
distant forest. 

A startling whisper went from mouth to mouth in 
154 



Susie is Lost 

Stringtown, when the news went forth that the ward of 
Mr. Wagner had disappeared. The search, begun in 
expectation of soon finding the child, continued through 
the entire day. Wells and cisterns were probed, ponds 
were di'agged. 



155 



CHAPTER XXIV 

cupe's advice to his dog 

MR. WAGNER at once visited Cupe, taking me 
along, for I was known to be a close friend of 
the old negro. He was sitting in the accustomed chair 
beside his cabin door. He had turned for solace to his 
faithful violin, and long before the visitors reached the 
cabin we caught the mournful tones of a plaintive tune 
that spoke the mood of the musician's mind. George 
Washington looked up and growled, but, evidently un- 
der the command of an undertone from his master, 
closed his eyes and lowered his head. Cupe gave no 
sign of salutation ; he continued his dolorous tune until 
the intruders stood close before him, and could distin- 
guish a few lines of one of the most plaintive of negro 
melodies : 

Yo' ask what make dis niggah weep, 

Why he like uddahs am not gay, 
What make de teahs roll down his cheek 
From early dawn till broke ob day ? 

Interrupting the song, Cupe lowered his violin, arose 
and placed his chair before the man, but took no notice 
of me. 

"What are you doing, Uncle Cupe ? " 

"Sah'rin'." 

" Have you seen Susie ? " 

" No sah." 

156 



Cupe's Advice to his Dog 

" She disappeared last night." 

" I hab n't seed nuffin ob her." 

" I thought that perhaps she had returned to her old 
home." 

" She hab not be'n heah, an' I hab not seed de 
chile." 

" You are sure, Cupe, that you know nothing of her 
whereabouts ? " 

" I hain't seed her, I tole yo', an' I hain't hea'd from 
her sense yo' took her 'way." 

" You will help us search for her, Cupid ? You 
know the land well, you will assist in her recovery ? " 

" I hab had nuffin t' do wid de takin' ob de honey, 
an' I will hab nuffin t' do wid de bre'kin' ob de spell. 
De cheer an' de table talk ag'n last night, de doah shake 
in an' out, an' Cupe wah waitin' fo' news ob trouble." 

He dropped his voice, and added : " An' when 
Dgawge Wash'n't'n an' Cupe go out t' trail de coon, 
de headless dog come ag'n. Et wah down by the bars 
wha' de ole man Doty wah killed, an de hant dog slip 
close an' trot by Cupe's side, an' when Cupe walk 
slow de dog widout de head go slow, an' when Cupe 
move fas', de hant move fas'. An' nuffin but nigger 
kin see dat sign ; ole Dgawge Wash'n't'n could n't see 
de crittah. Et wah a monstrous bad sign, an' Cupe tink 
ob de chile an' pray de Lawd dat de sign wah not pintin' 
t' de yinnecent chile." 

Mr. Wagner, realising that he was losing time arguing 
with the superstitious old man, turned to go. 

" Yo' had better look in de cabin befo' vo' lebe ; yo' 
might feel es ef de nigger had 'varicated ef yo' doan." 

Cupe opened the door, and Mr. Wagner stepped into 
the room. Dinah sat beside the hearth with bowed 
head, but no other person was to be seen. Cupe 

157 



Stringtown on the Pike 

pointed to each corner, to the empty space beneath the 
bed, and conducted his visitor into the loft, which con- 
tained no visible objects excepting the iron chest, some 
strings of dried corn, bunches of seeds and medicinal 
roots and herbs that hung about the rafters. 

Leaving the house, Cupe insisted on a search being 
made of the shed-stable ; indeed, he seemed afraid that 
some spot in which the child could be secreted might be 
overlooked. As Mr. Wagner entered the door of the 
shed-stable, my old black friend spoke to me in a low 
tone : " Did yo' see de Red-Head Boy ag'in ? " 

" No." 

" Keep yoah eye op'n, peel yoah eye fo' dat chile." 

Whatever else he might have said was lost, for at this 
point Mr. Wagner returned from his fruitless search of 
the shed and announced his intention to return to 
Stringtown. 

As the visitors departed, Cupe bestowed upon them 
a very low bow, and having returned to his cabin and 
seated himself on the familiar chair, reached up to the 
hand of tobacco over his head, stripped a part of a leaf 
and thrust it between his flabby lips. 

" Come heah, Dgawge Wash'n't'n," he commanded ; 
and the four-footed friend laid its lank head on the knee 
of his master, who took its nose between his thumb and 
finger. " Yo' hab work t' do, Dgawge, wo'k t' do t'- 
night, Dgawge Wash'n't'n. When yo' hab wo'k t' do 
keep yoah nose cool." 

" Dinah," he cried, " Dinah, don't yo' gib Dgawge 
nuffin t' eat till mahn'n." 



158 



CHAPTER XXV 

THE HAUNTED HOLLOW 

THE remainder of the day indolent old Cupe sat in 
his chair, seemingly contented when awake, but it 
would have been difficult to say just how much of the 
time he was awake. Occasionally he hummed a negro 
melody, again he would change the exhausted tobacco 
leaf between his lips for a fresh one, but much of the 
time with closed eyes he sat motionless. Just before 
the setting sun reached the horizon its slanting rays 
streamed into his face, and then he called to Dinah : 
" Brung de ole slippahs ob de honey chile and call Dgawge 
into de cabin an' den shet bof de doahs, an' keep him 
dah." 

Dinah obeyed without question. 

Cupe took two tobacco-sticks and fastened the shoes, 
one to the end of each. He began then to walk side- 
ways, holding the sticks at arm's length, so that the 
shoes hung near the earth far outside his own tracks. In 
this manner he slowly passed along, and as he did so 
caused the shoes to step as if a child were walking par- 
allel with his own footsteps. Across the dooryard, over 
the fence, down and across the little creek at the base 
of the hill, he trudged, and then, making a circuit, he 
came back again to the starting-place. 

" De deed am done, an' now dis nigger '11 see ef 
Dgawge Wash'n't'n am in fix fo' de work ob his life. 
Let de dawg out, Dinah ! Come heah, Dgawge." 

159 



Stringtown on the Pike 

The dog trotted out of the house. Taking the nose 
of the brute between his thumb and finger, as he had 
done before, the negro muttered : " Et am cool an' 
pleasant like t' de touch — de nose am fixed fo' de 
work. Yo' see dese slippahs, Dgawge ? " — and Cupe 
held them before the eyes of the dog — " Yo' see dese 
heah slippahs ? " 

The dog whined gently. 

" Yo' am no fool, Dgawge, but yo' bettah smell de 
leather, fo' yo' hain't no time fo' 'stakes now," and 
with these words the shoes were held to the dog's 
nose. 

" Now am yo' ready fo' de test ob yoah life, 
Dgawge ? Go fin' Susie I Go fin' de chile ! Hunt 
fo' Susie, Dgawge ! " 

At once the old cur thrust his nose close to the earth 
and began a zigzag trot about the dooryard. Cupe 
watched him intently, and when he neared the trail of 
the slippers became visibly excited. At this instant the 
hound stopped ; raising his head and dropping his lower 
jaw slightly, he gave a cry that stirred the heart of his 
master with pleasure. 

'' Yo' am tellin' de truff^, suah ! yo' am de crittah 
what kin keep yoah nose cool ef de weddah am wahm. 
Fin' Susie, Dgawge ! Go fo' Susie ! " 

In reply, the dog started in a long lope with extended 
nose scarce depressed toward the earth, thus showing 
the acuteness of the trail ; following the exact course 
of the circle Cupe had made, he returned to the starting- 
point. " Yo' am a daisy of a dawg, yo' hab wo'k t' 
do, but yo' don't git no suppah till yo' do et. Keep 
yoah nose cool, Dgawge." 

Carefully putting the slippers into his breeches' 
pocket, Cupe, in obedience to the call of Dinah, step- 

l6o 



The Haunted Hollow 

ped inside his cabin to partake of his own supper, 
while the hungry dog lingered outside the door. 

Returning after the meal was over, the old man 
looked at the star-bedecked sky, from which the last 
tinge of twilight was fast fading, and then glanced at 
the spot where his dumb comrade rested. 

" De hour hab come, Dgawge, de hour ob trial." 

Slipping on a roundabout jacket that hung on a nail 
near the corn-shuck chair, and thrusting into its pocket 
a twist of leaf-tobacco, the old man turned to the open 
door. " Dinah," he said, " ef yo' doan see de dawg an' 
me befo' mahn'n, dah ain't no cause fo' feah." 

" De moon doan rose 'til midnight ; what fo' yo' go 
ahftah de coon now?" asked Dinah. 

" Nebbah yo' min' de moon ; dah am uddah crittahs 
dan coons." 

" Yo' hab lef ' yoah ax, Cupe, yo' hab lef yoah ax ! " 
cried Dinah, as her husband disappeared in the gloom. 

" Dah am no need fo' de ax t'-night ; de crittah what 
we hunts now am not in de tree no' in de grapevine 
tangle." 

The huntsman and his dog were now alone together 
in the starlight. 

Taking the path toward Stringtown, their course led 
them toward the brow of the hill. But before reaching 
the hill Cupe struck the toe of his left foot violently 
against a projecting stone. He immediately stopped, 
turned back, retraced his steps to the door of the cabin, 
and then recommenced his journey, muttering : 

" Ef et had be'n the right toe, et 'ud hab be'n a sign 
ob good luck, but t' stump de lef toe am an ebil sign. 
Dah ain't no resk t' be run t'-night. Dah ain't — " 

The slave stopped, his bent body sunk yet nearer the 
earth ; his mouth, still open, left the sentence incom- 
" i6i 



Stringtown on the Pike 

plete. He heard a rustle in the grass just before him, 
and then a full-grown rabbit hopped into the path, halted 
momentarily, turned its great eyes, that yet glittered in 
the dusk, full upon the negro, and with a bound crossed 
the path and disappeared in the briars. 

" De wussest sign what could be ; de rabbet nebbah 
cross de paff outen de journey am leadin' t' hahm. An' 
et stop t' say, ' Go back, go back, yo' nigger, go 
back ! ' De crittah say et wid ets eyes. Monstrous 
bad am de endin' ob de walk ob de man who go on when 
de rabbet cross de paff ahead ob him, Dat wah not a 
libbin' rabbet, fo' de dawg did n't see er smell et. Et 
wah a hant." 

Back to the cabin went the negro and taking two ob- 
jects from a string behind the door, he carefully placed 
them in his pocket. " De cha'ms wah fergotten, an' de 
hant rabbet know et — de cha'ms t' keep off de hoodoo 
from Dgawge Wash'n't'n an' Cupe. Now de start am 
right." 

Having thus corrected a grave blunder, Cupe moved 
rapidly until he reached the brow of the hill. Leaving 
the path at this point, he sought a small thicket, within 
which, by daylight, could have been seen an enclosure of 
stone that marked the foundation of an old building. At 
each end of the ruin two piles of stones were crumbling 
in the weather, the debris of the chimneys of the haunted 
mansion. 

" Dgawge," said the negro addressing his dog, " yo' 
am in de sacredest spot on earf, de spot wha' de missus 
slep' her las' sleep. De shinin' face ob de suff'in' chile 
wah tu'n' t' glory from wha' stan' de 'simmon tree by 
yoah side. An' Cupe he kneel on de flo' ob de mansion 
what wah, an' hoi' de dyin' han'. De sah'rin' times 
am back ag'in, Dgawge, de eye ob de missus look into 

162 



The Haunted Hollow 

de heaht ob de nigger, de sweet face rise up an' speak 
'bout de blos'm ob a chile she lebe wid Cupe an' Dinah." 

The old man knelt in the grass and raised his face to 
the star-lit heavens. 

" De blos'm am an angel now a-singin' hal'ujahs wid 
its muddah, but wha' am de Susie chile what take its 
place ? Cupe am sah'rin' fo' de Susie gearl case he 
swar' t' watch obah de new chile. Dgawge, yo' kin 
smell tings what Cupe caint smell, but yo' caint see all 
de tings dat de nigger kin see. Ef yo' could an' 'ud look 
to'ard de ole well yo' 'ud see a man stan' — a man, 
Dgawge — de ole ma'se dat hab walked an' walked an' 
caint git no res'. He play keards when de chile wah 
bohn an' swar' at de sweet missus once too many times, 
an' fo' dat debbilment he hab t' walk de briar patch now. 
Cussed be de man who bring trouble t' a young muddah. 
Dah ain't no peace on earf, dah ain't no place in Heaben, 
de debbil hab no use fo' sech a sperrit. Yo' caint see 
him, Dgawge. Ef yo' could see what Cupe see, yo' 'ud 
stick yoah tail 'tween yoah legs an' run home t' Dinah. 
Come on, Dgawge, dah ain't no moah time fo' hant 
seein', we hab work t' do t'-night." 

George and his master started, and soon the cry of 
the old hound floated in the air, and at once a whistle 
loud and shrill broke from the lips of Cupe. " Come 
heah, Dgawge ! Come back, Dgawge Wash'n't'n ! " 

Obedient to the command, the dog came to his side. 

"Yo' mus' n't act up any fool tricks t'-night, I tole 
yo' ! De rabbet am all right when we hunt rabbet, but 
et am not fo' yo' dis yocasion. No moah rabbet, 
Dgawge," and the old man boxed the ears of his friend. 
" Now walk b'hin' till I tole yo' t' hunt." 

The negro strode forward, the dog, with hanging head, 
following at his heels until the lights of Stringtown 

163 



Stringtown on the Pike 

came into view. Stopping then, the old man crouched 
in the grass and again spoke : " Dgawge, dah am no 
coon, no 'possum, no rabbet t'-night. De time am come 
fo' wo'k, an' ef yo' doan wo'k t'-night, de end ob yoah 
life am heah." Feeling of the dog's nose, the negro 
chuckled, and then taking the little shoes out of his 
pocket, he held them before the eyes of the dog and 
touched them once more to his nose. " Hunt fo' Susie, 
Dgawge ! hunt fo' Susie ! slow," as the dog started off, 
" slow, Dgawge ; de night am long." 

The dog disappeared in the darkness, and Cupe, turn- 
ing his steps so as to inscribe a circle about the String- 
town lights, wended his way slowly over the uneven land. 
From time to time he stopped to cheer the sagacious 
hound, which could be heard pressing through the bushes 
and occasionally, when on a ridge, could be seen pictured 
against the sky. Old Cupe, accustomed to nocturnal 
exploits with the dumb brute, knew exactly what he was 
doing as he circled about, and needed nothing more than 
the occasional sounds, that to an inexperienced ear would 
have conveyed no meaning, could they have been heard, 
to tell that the faithful animal was scouring every foot 
of territory in the vicinity. At last the steps of the ne- 
gro led to a grapevine thicket in a ravine, and soon from 
its depths a loud howl came, a howl that to other persons 
than Cupe would have sounded exactly like the cry that 
led to the punishment of the dog at the time his ears 
were boxed for trailing a rabbit. 

The cry had hardly subsided before Cupe gave a 
whistle, and soon the dog came to his side. " Dgawge, 
de 'possum am sweet t' de taste when the sweet'-tatah 
an' de frost am heah, but not t'-night. Yo' hab bettah 
wo'k t' do dan tree de 'possum, Dgawge," and again the 
patient creature's ears were boxed. '' Now min' yoah 

164 



The Haunted Hollow 

nose, Dgawge," and Cupe touched it again with the little 
shoe. " Hunt fo' Susie, Dgawge, hunt fo' Susie ! " 

The ground was slowly covered, fields of corn, 
open pasture, waste briar patches and woodlands. The 
Stringtown pike was crossed below the village, and 
on the return circuit crossed again above it, near the 
home of Mr. Nordman, the old Kentucky gentleman ; 
the Mt. Carmel pike was also crossed and the heavy 
beechwood at the junction was passed, and yet no 
evidence of the movements of the dog and master 
could be heard other than the sound made by an oc- 
casional broken stick or a rustle of the bushes. Then, 
at last, the discouraged negro realised that he had com- 
pleted the circuit of the village, for he stood near the 
spot where the circle began. The old man called his 
dog, and when he approached spoke to him as only a 
deeply earnest negro of the olden time could speak to 
a dumb brute. " De sign wah bad, fo' et wah de lef 
toe, but did n't Cupe go back an' staht ag'in ? De ebil 
ob de sign wah chahmed away, suah. De fault am not 
wid de nigger, but wid de dawg. Yo' am not workin', 
Dgawge, yo' hab been foolin' yoah time away." The 
harangue ended with a threat and the information that 
the village must again be tramped about, and that the 
next circle must be larger. Again they started around 
the village, but before doing so receded from the pre- 
vious circle, so that this circuit would be much greater 
than the other. Patiently they passed over the land as 
they had done before, until the Stringtown pike below 
the village was reached. At this point, just as the 
negro prepared to climb the rail fence, he stopped and 
then sank upon the ground. " Stan' still, Dgawge," he 
slowly muttered ; " dah am dangah in de ole pike ; stan' 
still." 

165 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Peering through the rails, the kneeling negro saw, 
first, two silent horsemen approach ; following which 
came a troop of about a hundred men, riding two 
abreast. When opposite the negro the troop halted, and 
then from beneath an adjacent tree a slight figure stepped 
to the side of the leader of the band, spoke a few words 
and disappeared toward the village. The troop resumed 
its way, and at last, about as far behind the cavalrymen 
as the advance guard had preceded them, came the rear- 
guard of two horsemen. 

The tramp of the horses' feet, the occasional rattling 
of a sabre against a wooden stirrup, the smothered 
cough of an afflicted rider, and the cavalcade that had 
been pictured against the starry skies disappeared in the 
gloom. 

" Dah am sorrah com'n' t' someone t'-night ; de 
cav'lry doan trabel at midnight fo' fun. Befo' dis raid 
am obah some rebel boy '11 be to'n from de muddah 
what he come home t' see. Ef I knowed who dem 
blue coats wah ahftah ! Damn dat young cuss, dah am 
mischief in de air, but dah am uddah wo'k fo' Cupe 
t'-night. Dah am trouble fo' uddahs as well es de rebel 
boy." 

He moved on; the two pikes were crossed, the 
shadows of the beechwood were traversed and the 
second circuit of the village nearly completed when a 
cry from the dog broke upon the air, a cry that brought 
old Cupe to a stop so sudden that the foot was arrested 
in the air, slowly lowered, and then the negro fell upon 
his knees. No whistle broke from his lips this time, 
no scolding of George Washington, but in its stead the 
murmured words : " De Lawd be praised ! stan' still, 
Dgawge Wash'n't'n. De track ob de chile am foun'. 
Steady, Dgawge, stan' steady, Dgawge Wash'n't'n." 

1 66 



The Haunted Hollow 

Rising, he advanced to the spot from which the cry 
had come, and kneeling again beside the dog the thank- 
ful negro burst into tears and threw his arms about the 
dumb brute's neck. As he knelt thus the full moon 
slowly arose, for the night had half wasted away, and 
yet not until it threw a broad glare did patient Cupe 
give the command to move onward. Then he said : 
" Slow, Dgawge. Go t' Susie, Dgawge. Steady, ole 
man," and the dog leaped into the darkness. 

The slow, creeping motion that had characterised the 
movements of Cupe during the night now changed to a 
trot ; the steps were long, and he rapidly covered the 
ground. A howl came regularly from the throat of his 
unseen leader, a howl that to Cupe's practised ear was 
sufficient to keep him fast in the trail. He used his 
eyes to avoid obstructions, but relied solely on his ear 
to keep track of the dog. The moon rose high into the 
heavens ; woodland, meadow, and thicket were trodden 
with no change in the cry of the dog, no sound from 
the lips of his master. The child had wandered in zig- 
zag lines, had struggled through briars and bushes, over 
hills and through valleys — if, indeed, the dog were 
trailing the child. At last even Cupe grew doubtful, 
and whistled, which signal was understood as a com- 
mand to stop. On reaching the brute, who in obedi- 
ence rested in his tracks, the negro spoke as follows : 

" Am yo' lyin', Dgawge, am yo' lyin' or tellin' de 
truff ? Ef de chile hab been wha' yo' hab trabeled, de 
yinnecent hab walked her legs off. Am yo' lyin', 
Dgawge ? " Stopping in the middle of the sentence, the 
speaker reached out his hand and picked from a briar a 
small piece of cloth, which he held before his eyes. 
The light of the moon fell full upon the fragment, and 
then Cupe completed the broken sentence — " An' heah 

167 



Stringtown on the Pike 

am de ansah — yo' am tellin' de truff. Go t' Susie, 
Dgawge, go t' Susie," 

Back and forth, in and out, the man followed the cry 
of his dog that night, ever intent on the object of his 
search, hoping each moment to hear the bay announcing 
that the child had been found at last. But there came 
no change of note ; the monotonous howl that first 
struck the ear was maintained, until at last a great loop 
had been made, and the step of the master, following the 
cry of the dog, turned toward a spot well known to the 
superstitious negro. Nearer and yet nearer they drew 
to the point that disturbed the mind of the slave, until at 
last he could no longer control his fear, but whistled to 
his companion, and together they came to a stand on the 
top of a grassy ridge. 

" Yo' bettah go slow, Dgawge. Dah am dangah in 
de air ef yo' go into de hainted hoUah widout de cha'm. 
God bress de rabbet what cross de paff an' send us back 
fo' de cha'm. Hole still, Dgawge ; " and taking from 
his pocket a rabbit-foot attached to a string, the negro 
hung it around the neck of his dumb friend. He drew 
another rabbit-foot charm from the same pocket and 
threw it around his own neck. " Go slow, Dgawge, 
de debbil am in Bloody Hollah. God help de chile ef 
de debbil fin' her dah." The rabbit-foot charm even 
seemed not altogether to remove the distrust of the old 
man, who glanced uneasily about as he moved slowly 
into the valley. He mumbled to himself, possibly re- 
citing a word charm, but still he kept bravely after the 
yelping hound. 

At this point, when the dog had reached the base of 
the hill, he gave a yelp so diff^erent from the monotonous 
cry that had preceded it that even an inexperienced per- 
son would have noticed the change of tone. It was a 

1 68 



The Haunted Hollow 

single, sharp yelp, followed by a loud, long cry that made 
the valley echo. The negro rushed forward, careless 
alike of ghost or goblin ; and there, reclining on the 
grass, her head pillowed on a hillock that the slave knew 
only too well, was the object of the search. 

The dog stretched himself upon the earth, licking the 
hand of his young mistress, and the moonlight threw its 
mellow rays over the hollow. 

The frightened negro wasted no time ; he raised the 
girl in his arms and rapidly left the valley of evil omens. 
His faithful dog, his night work at an end, weary and 
exhausted, with hanging head, followed at his heels. 
The grey of morning mingled with the moonlight as 
Cupe opened the door of his cabin, where old Dinah sat 
waiting for her husband. She gave a cry of joy as she 
recognised her young mistress ; but Cupe, with the 
proverbial gruffness of such as he, said : 

" Shet yoah mouf, yo' fool nigger, an' doan yo' wake 
de honey chile. Give Dgawge Wash'n't'n his suppah, 
fo' he hab done his wo'k." 



169 



CHAPTER XXVI 

DESPONDENT STRINGTOWN 

OBLIVIOUS to the occurrences related in the pre- 
ceding chapter, Stringtown slept. Extraordin- 
ary events were required in 1864, to waken her people. 
The tramp of cavalry had become a familiar sound. A 
nocturnal raid had ceased to be novel. Long trains of 
army wagons, the curses of mule-drivers, the crack of 
black-snake whips, the sound of blows belabouring the 
backs of the patient brutes, were constant day and night 
along the dusty pike. The beating of drums, and the 
music of bands, the singing of enthusiastic men in bright 
new uniforms, the mirth that always accompanied the 
recruit marching South to " glory," sounded in the ears 
of our people so often as to excite no further comment. 
The tramp of veterans when transfer of commands 
brought old soldiers back from the war, men with whom 
the lack of bluster and of mirthful singing was in marked 
contrast to the behaviour of the new-made soldier, did 
not disturb us. One looked forward to waving flags, 
valiant cavalry charges, and pictured battle scenes in 
which, amid cheers of comrades, the waving banner was 
proudly carried on to the ramparts of the enemy : the 
other had known war in its reality ; war which meant 
burned dwellings, weeping mothers, children huddled 
into groups, lands devastated, homes destroyed, distress 
and famine, pain and suffering to the innocent •, and 
these experienced no ecstacy in thinking of battle charges 
where blood flowed from friend and foe, no pleasure in 

170 



Despondent Strlngtown 

reminiscences even of success where fire, smoke and 
death once prevailed. The places vacated by lost mess- 
mates, and the shrinking forms of suffering children and 
bereaved mothers, taught a sorrowful lesson to him who 
had taken part in war. 

We of Stringtown slept during the passing of the 
squad of cavalry which Cupe saw tramping up the 
pike, and we also slept while the same raiding troop 
returned from a saddened household with a single pris- 
oner, the rebel son of Mr. Nordman. And if String- 
town's people knew nothing of this tramping of a 
hundred horses, how could they have been aware of 
the stealthy footsteps of the old slave who that night 
had twice encircled their outskirts? Why should they 
awaken, when from a distance the old hound raised 
his voice beside the negro who searched for the lost 
footsteps of the wandering child ? 

But when morning came, with unabated energy the 
search was resumed. Aid was solicited from the 
country about, dogs were employed, but either the 
trail had cooled or the strange dogs were not gifted 
as was George Washington, for they found no trace 
of the wanderer's track. A party of seekers strag- 
gled to the cabin of Cupe, who sat as usual beside 
the cabin door, his old dog asleep at his side. 

"Yo' doan p'tend t' say dat yo' hain't foun' de chile 
yit ? " 

" No signs of her. Lend us George ; perhaps he 
can strike the trail." 

*' Yo' am welcome t' de dawg, but he am no 'count. 
He am like his ma'se. He doan trail de 'possum an' de 
coon now, he hain't got sense nuff in his ole head fo' 
huntin'. Go wid de gem'n, Dgawge ; git up, yo' lazy 
houn', an' go wid de gem'n ! " 

171 



Stringtown on the Pike 

The visitors whistled to the dog, which listlessly and 
with drooping head followed them from the door. 

"Ya, ya," said Cupe, when the men had disappeared, 
" yo' am buhn'n yoah candle at de wrong end when yo' 
walk 'way from dis cabin. Yo' might es well look fo' 
an eah ob cohn wid thirteen rows es t' look fo' de 
gearl wha' yo' am gwine." 

In a short time old George slunk back and resumed 
his former location. Cupe still rested beside the door ; 
Dinah sat in the back doorway ; no other person was to 
be seen. 

Stringtown's search continued until, after several days 
had passed, hope departed from every breast. The child 
was given up as lost. Rumours arose that could not be 
traced to any authentic source, and yet were passed from 
mouth to mouth, to the effect that Susie had straggled to 
the pike and was found by a band of Northern soldiers 
marching south, who carried the homeless waif away. 
This rumour grew into accepted fact when a soldier 
on furlough, returning from the front, stopped at one 
of the Stringtown taverns and told of a child who, pet- 
ted by her new-found friends, was now in the Army of 
the Cumberland. 



172 



CHAPTER XXVII 

" RED-HEAD " 

"^"T^OOK yoah las' look at de ole plantation, Dinah, 

JL res' yoah eyes fo' de las' time on de Ian' wha' 
yo' wha' bohn. De fragrance ob de cohn when et am 
in silk, de bread what yo' make wid de frosted 'simmon 
an' de cracklin', de sweet-'tatah an' 'possum am no 
moah fo' yo'. De Ian' ob yo' fahdah am no moah yoah 
home ; trial an' sorrah am t' come fo' de two ole niggers 
in de cole Canerdy country," 

Dinah, sitting in the doorway, made no reply, and for 
a long time Cupe sat mute, lost in meditation. 

" De ansah say dat de grabe hab cubbahed de body ob 
de missus an' de body ob de ma'se, an' dat de blos'm 
chile am dead an' buried an' dat Cupe hab done de long- 
made promise out. Et say dat when de dead am satis- 
fied de backwa'd work ob man am done." 

Dinah looked into the face of her husband and asked : 
" Am yo' suah de dead am satisfied? " 

" Suah. Dinah, I is suah. De switch ob de weepin' 
willah tree droop down an' hang long obah de spot 
wha' Cupe stick de twig obah sweet missus' grabe ; de 
cedah bough cubbahs de grabe ob de chile she call her 
blos'm. Dah am no yallah clay t' be seen, but dah am 
trouble yit. Dah am trouble com'n'. 

" When Cupe go las' night t' wha' de ole house wah, 
he feel de touch ob de sperrit ob de dead. He look at 
de spot wha' de bed ob de missus stan' de night de 
blos'm wah bohn, an' he speak t' de missus like es ef she 

173 



Stringtown on the Pike 

wah by his side, an' den he lis'n fo' de ansah. Dah 
wa'n't no sound ob voice, but de ansah come out ob de 
air an' out ob de moonlight." 

" What yo' see t' pint t' new trouble ? " 

" When I sahch in de bed ob de sage, dah wah many 
young sage plants growin' ; dey am moah dan a ninch 
high. Et wah not a week sense Cupe scratch dat bed 
obah, an' now de seed am up. Dah am trouble fo' de 
man what plant de seed ob sage an' trouble fo' him who 
let de sage seed sprout." ^ 

"De sage am a suah sign. But am de sperrit ob ole 
ma'se satisfied ? " 

Low and husky was the reply. " He am walkin' yit, 
but dat doan consahn us niggers. He swar' at de un- 
bohn babe, he cuss de new-made muddah, an' he mus' 
walk fo' his own sins." 

"An' Susie?" 

" Et am fo' de good ob dat chile dat de change mus' 
come t' yo' an' me. Kin we keep her cubbahed fer- 
ebah ? She am sittin' in de cabin in de mahn'n an' in 
de cabin in de ebenin'. She am in de cabin all day 
long. She go out wid Cupe in de night fo' a brefF ob 
air, but de eyes am heaby an' de mist hang low. She 
mus' hab sunshine, an' dah ain't no chance heah." 

" An' yo '11 lebe de home wha' yo' wah bohn, de Ian' 
wha' yo' always lib, de grabe ob de ole fo'ks an' de 
chillun fo' de sake ob de strange chile ? " 

" Doan I tole yo' so ? " 

" But yo' am not yoah own ma'se, an' I am not 
yoah nigger. Yo' caint lebe an' I caint go." 

" De papahs ob freedom wah drawn up by de missus 
befo' she go t' glory, de papahs am ready fo' de Co'ht." 

1 To plant sage seed is a sign of death or severe sickness to one 
of the family. 



^'Red-Head" 

" Fo' bof ob us ? " 

" Fo' Cupe." 

" An' yo' 'ud hab Dinah run 'way like de fiel' nigger 
do ? " 

" Dah ain't no use in yargyin' wid a woman," indig- 
nantly replied Cupe. " Shet yoah brack mouf, Dinah, 
git yoah duds ready fo' de long journey." 

At this point a slight change in the intensity of the 
light in the room caught the eye of the alert old man. 
" Tsh! " he whispered, " dah am a shaddah on de flo' ; 
tu'n yoah eyeball back, Dinah, an' tole me what yo' see 
befo' de back windah." 

Cautiously the old woman raised her head so that a 
side glance could be taken of the window back of Cupe. 

" Et am a boy." 

" An' de head ob de boy am red, Dinah ? " 

" Suah." 

" Wha' am Susie ? " 

"Playin' wid de gourd doll." 

" An' de boy kin see de chile ? " 

*' He am lookin' at de chile." 

" De deed mus' be done ; de Red-Head Boy hab seed 
de gearl, de spell am wo'kin'. Dgawge" — and Cupe 
addressed his sleeping dog — " Dgawge, ish! tree 'em, 
Dgawge ! tree 'em quick ! " 

Bounding through the open door, the dog made a 
circuit around the house, and at once a cry of distress 
came from the window where the head of the boy had 
appeared. Shuffling through the door and around the 
cabin, Cupe found the dog standing over the prostrate 
form of the " Red-Head " Boy. 

"An' yo' hab come at las', yo' ebil-spell chile!" 
Cupe gave this welcome and glared down into the face 
of the defiant boy, who scowled back at the old slave. 

17s 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" An' so de debbil hab sent yo' es de spell p'dicted, yo' 
red-head cuss. De spell what say dat Cupe an' Dinah 
an' de chile mus' lebe dere home, an' dat when de doah 
am closed at las' yo' will sit alone in de cabin." 

Taking the prostrate boy by the ear, Cupe raised him 
to his feet, and face to face the two scowled a moment 
in silence. Then, still holding the ear firmly, the negro 
led the boy to the door of the cabin. " Brung my hat, 
Dinah, an' brung de bottle what stan' on de shelf." 

" De bottle am empty." 

"Did I ax yo' fo' a full bottle, yo' fool nigger? 
What fo' yo' talk back ? Brung me de bottle on de 
shelf like I says." 

This order brought the desired bottle, a pint flask. 
Putting it into his pocket, old Cupe spoke to the boy: 

" Ef yo' fool wid Cupe, yo' am foolin' wid yoah life, 
yo' East Kaintuck scrub stock. What fo' yo' stop in 
God's country ? Why doan yo' go on t' Posey County, 
Engiany, wha' de likes ob yo' belong ? " 

The boy made no reply. 

"I wah stan'n' by de Stringtown pike when de wagon 
what held yoah debbilish carcass come down from de 
Kaintuck mount'ns, an' jes den de ho'ses stop fo' res'. 
Dah wah two scrawny ho'ses, foah dawgs, a coop ob 
chickens, a man an' woman, a lot ob dirty chillun, an' 
yoah red head." 

No reply from the boy. 

"An' when de quistion wah axed, 'Wha' yo' come 
from ? ' de ansah ob de man what dribe wah, ' East Kain- 
tuck mount'ns.' An' when de quistion wah axed, 
' Wha' yo' gwine t' ? ' de ansah wah, ' Posey County, 
Engiany.' " 

Still there was no answer. 

"Why yo' stop in Kaintuck, yo' red-head cuss? 
176 



"Red-Head" 

Why yo' not go on t' Posey County, Engiany, wid de 
tribe what bring yo' ? " 

" Old Nordman is my uncle ; I came to live with 
him," said the boy surlily. 

"An' yo' brung shame on yoah uncle fo' habin' sech 
kin. Yo' come from East Kaintuck t' lib wid yoah 
Uncle Nordman, but de man who dribe dat wagon doan 
go on ; he stop in de city an' jine in de blue coat army. 
De moonlight am not bright, but Cupe am a nigger — he 
kin see in de night. Dat feller wah de man who 
cap'ned de cavalry on de Stringtown pike de uddah night, 
when yo' slip from undah de tree an' whispah in his eah. 
He wah de man." 

"I'll get even with yo', yo' black nigger, fer I've seen 
the girl, an' I'll tell where she es." 

" Yo' will ? " 

" Yes, an' I'll get the fifty dollars too. Mr. Wagner 
hes offered fifty dollars fo' news of her." 

"Pint yoah nose fo' home an' walk slow, yo' debbilish 
imp ; ef yo' run, de teef ob de dawg '11 make yo' wish 
yo' had gone on wid de East Kaintuck litter an' crost de 
ribbah, wha' de likes ob yo' b'long." 

The boy did not move nor say a word. 

" Tu'n yoah face to'ard de pike like I tole yo' ! 
Move, yo' sorrel top, er I '11 pull dis eah out by de root." 

The boy sullenly obeyed, but it was evident that Cupe 
intended to accompany him. With the old dog in front 
and the negro close behind, they started for the village. 
Before reaching it, however, at the command of Cupe, 
the course was changed, and passing through the fields 
along the village outskirts the group reached the pike 
near the house of Mr. Nordman, who, as usual on sum- 
mer afternoons, was sitting on the front porch of his 
home. 

" 177 



Stringtown on the Pike 

On entering the yard Cupe took off his hat, and 
bowed low to the owner of the house. After the usual 
salutations had been exchanged, he said : " Dah am 
sadness obah yoah face, Ma'se Nordman, an' I 'spec' 
dah am sorrah obah de heaht ob de missus t'-day." 

" Yes, Cupe, we are in trouble." 

" An' well yo' may sorrah, fo' dah am trouble in de 
house an' dah am trouble out ob de house. Yo' will 
'scuse de nigger fo' sayin' et ? " 

"Say on." 

" Yo' am sah'rin' fo' de chile, de rebel boy, what 
come t' see his muddah ? " 

"Yes." 

" How come de Yankee sojers t' fin' out he wah 
home ? " 

" God only knows. Uncle Cupe. I did not think 
that I had an enemy in the world capable of stooping to 
such an act." 

At this juncture the Red-Head Boy attempted to walk 
away. Cupe eyed him as he turned toward the corner 
of the house and mildly observed : 

" Chile, yo' need n't go ; bettah yo' stay an' heah de 
conbersashun out, case Cupe hab sump'n' t' show yo' 
in de pike when he go back." The boy took the seem- 
ingly artless words as a command ; he returned reluctantly 
and sat down on the edge of the porch. 

" De Stringtown fo'ks doan know de rebel boy wah 
home ? " 

" Yes ; many of them called to see him, but no man 
in Stringtown would inform on him." 

" His bruddah, Ma'se Jim, de Yankee cap'n, had be'n 
home too." 

" Yes ; they met by appointment." 

" Yo' hain't no cause t' spishun none ob de niggers ? " 
178 



^^ Red-Head'* 

" No, Cupid ; not one but would have made any 
sacrifice for that boy. His old auntie is crying now in 
the cabin." 

" Yo' hain't no cause t' spishun no one on de place 
an' no cause t' spishun no one in de town ? Mon- 
strous strange ! I 'spec' de Yankees jes happen t' come 
in de night an' dey jes happen t' stop befo' yoah house. 
Pow'ful cu'yus. Dey station dere men at de back an' 
at de front ob de house — jes happen t' do it; dey make 
a ring ob muskets in de moonlight all 'roun' de mansion. 
Den dat loud knock come on de doah, de sleepin' chile 
wah pulled out ob bed, de han'cuffs slip obah his wrists, 
an' he wah put on de back ob one ho'se what jes happen 
t' hab an empty saddle." 

" Yes, so it seems," answered Nordman meditatively. 

" De sojers come wid only one empty saddle ? " 

No response. 

" Dey go no fa'dah up de pike, but tu'n back ag'in ? " 

No reply. 

" De niggers wah cryin', de muddah wah cryin', de 
ole man wah sw'arin' in hims heaht an' keepin' up a 
monstrous t'inkin', he am t'inkin' an' sw'arin' yit. But 
yoah t'inkin' doan do no good, de feller what tole on de 
bov am not foun'." 

" No." 

" Do yo' know who cap'ned de blue coats ? " 

" He did not come into the house. However, he 
only did his duty unless — " the old man paused. 

Suddenly changing the subject, the negro said : " Yo' 
mus' 'scuse de pertness ob de quistions, but yo' know 
dat Cupe hab b'en in trouble too ; " he held up his 
branded hand and displayed the livid mark in its palm, 
" an' dis am de fust chance he hab had t' git de inward- 
ness ob dis painful yocasion. Cupe did n't come t' see 

179 



Stringtown on the Pike 

yo' t' be 'quisitive, he come t' ax ef yo' 'ud do him de 
kindness yo' hab done so ofFen ? " 

A smile came over the face of the old Kentucky 
gentleman, and he thumped with his cane on the floor of 
the porch. A negro lad, dressed in a single garment 
that was sleeveless, beltless, legless, (a Lindsey shift), in 
obedience to the call soon stood before him. 

" Pig, take Cupe's bottle." 

Cupe took the empty flask from his pocket and 
handed it to the lad. 

" Fill it out of the second barrel in the far cellar." 

Cupe made his best courtesy and the boy disappeared, 
to return shortly, holding the bottle filled with the amber 
liquid. 

" T'ank yo', Ma'se Nordman, yo' liben de sperrit 
an' gladden de heaht ob de nigger. Ef yo' wan' Cupe 
t' sahve yo', a word am all yo' need say." He turned 
to go, then suddenly resumed the thread of his former 
conversation. 

"Ef yo' fin' dat de feller what cap'ned de sojers know 
de chile wah home an' set de trap t' cotch him ? " 

" If I could find the scoundrel I 'd shoot him on 
sight." 

*' An' ef yo' fin' de feller what tole de sojers on de 
honey ? " 

" I '11 shoot him like a dog." 

The old darkey chuckled, courtesied low and turned 
again to depart. Then, as if struck by a sudden thought, 
he said : " May de chile sittin' at yoah feet, de boy, yo' 
am so kind t' come t' de pike wid Cupe ? Dah am a 
cu'yus track in de dust dat might yinterest de boy." 

" Go," said Mr. Nordman. 

Passing together to the edge of the pike, as if they 
were the best of friends, Cupe leaned over and pointed 

1 80 



"Red-Head'* 

toward the smooth furrows in the dust ; but this was 
merely a blind, for no track was to be seen. 

" An' yo' come from East Kaintuck wid yoah moun- 
t'n manners," he whispered. " Yo' eat yoah own kin- 
fo'ks dah, yo' 'possum, an' yo' b'gin yoah debbilment 
heah by bitin' de ban' ob de man what feed yo', an' who 
hain't no spishun ob de sin in yoah heaht. De wicked 
deed am done an' caint be undone, er Cupe 'ud squeeze 
yoah neck like es de pahson did de colonel." Pointing 
into the dust, the negro continued : " Yo' saw Susie in 
de cabin ? " 

The boy did not reply. 

" Ansah de quistion ; yo' saw Susie in de cabin ? " 

" Yes." 

" Ef yo' say one word t' man er chile 'bout de gearl, 
Cupe '11 tole Ma'se Nordman 'bout what he saw when 
yo' meet de sojers on de Stringtown pike de night de 
raid wah made. Ef yo' whispah de fac' to any man 
Cupe '11 choke yoah life out fust, an' tell Ma'se Nord- 
man 'bout who cap'ned de raiders second. So suah es 
God made Adam, yo' debbil from East Kaintuck, ef 
ha'm come t' de Susie chile, yoah red head 'II stop hatchin' 
debbilment in de Ian' wha' yo' hab no bis'ness t' be. 
Min' yoah mouf now, keep yoah han' off dat fifty dol- 
lahs and sabe yoah neck." 

Straightening up, Cupe courtesied once more to the 
gentleman on the distant porch, and, together with his 
dog, passed from sight. 



I8l 



CHAPTER XXVIII 



SPIRITS 



ETURNING to the cabin, the negro resumed his 
usual position in the chair beside the door, first, 
however, handing Dinah the bottle, which, in conse- 
quence of having been sampled on his return trip, 
was not now entirely filled. But before it reached her 
hand the wary old man put his finger on the vial, close 
to the upper surface of the liquid, and remarked : " De 
lickah am heah, yo' kin see de top mark ; doan yo' let 
none ob et sweat fru de glass while Cupe am gone." 

Long he sat in meditation, chewing wisps of tobacco 
which from time to time he stripped from the ever- 
present hand of the leaf above his head. Finally he 
arose, took a spade, and strode into the garden, back to 
the graveyard. Digging next to the foot-stone that 
marked the resting-place of his mistress of other years 
he unearthed a large closed stone jar. Removing the 
cover, he took out an oblong tin box, again covered the 
jar, returned the soil and carefully sodded the disturbed 
earth's surface. Taking the box in his arms, he carried 
it to the stable, and there thrust it into an empty meal 
sack, which he then threw over his shoulder. Return- 
ing to the house, he spoke to Dinah : " Yo' know de 
papah what de muddah ob Susie wrote an' lebe in yoah 
charge ? " 

" Yes." 

" She say t' yo' dat ef de painfulness ob her life ebah 
182 



Spirits 



had t' be known, dat de papahs wah t' be used fo' de 
sake ob de chile." 

" Dat am what she say." 

" Brung me de papahs, Dinah ; dat time am come." 

Dinah hesitated. 

" Doan yo' heah ? Am yo' gittin' deaf er losin' yoah 
senses ? Yo' bettah be keerful, yo' hain't got much 
sense t' lose." 

Dinah dived her hand into the corner of the cupboard 
and produced a package neatly wrapped in newspaper, 
which she handed to Cupe, who placed it in the sack, 
which he threw across his shoulder and started for 
Stringtown. The old dog with nose against the ground 
trotting lazily at his heels. Dinah in the doorway 
watched the retreating figure. Mumbling to herself, 
and accompanying her voice with an occasional shake of 
the head, she stood long after the form disappeared ; 
then returning into the cabin, she glanced at the little 
bed where Susie, tired of play, had carelessly thrown 
herself and fallen asleep. She hesitated a moment and 
then went straight to the mantel-piece, taking therefrom 
the bottle Cupe had brought from Mr. Nordman's. 
Carefully tying a thread around the bottle exactly on 
the top line of the liquid, she uncorked the vial, raised it 
to her lips and drank a deep draught, half emptying it ; 
then, smacking her lips, she stepped to the water bucket, 
and poured water into the bottle until the liquid's sur- 
face struck the thread again, which latter she then re- 
moved. Finally she replaced the bottle on the shelf. 

" Yo' am a sly old fox, Cupe Hardman, yo' am a sly 
ole coon, but Dinah — ." Whatever she might have 
intended saying as a continuation of her soliloquy was 
lost, for, glancing at the little bed, she again caught 
sight of the sleeping face of Susie. 

183 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Dropping on her knees, the old negress clapped her 
lips upon the delicate hand that lay upon the white 
coverlet, murmuring : 

" De win' blow cole an' de snow am deep in de 
Canerdy country ; de nigger lub de Kaintuck sunshine, 
de sweet-'tatah an' de 'possum ; de grabe ob de ole fo'ks 
an' de chillun am bery deah t' de brack fo'ks' heaht, 
an' de cabin an' de fren's what lib in ole Kaintuck am 
presh'us. But when Cupe say t' Dinah, fo' de good ob 
de chile, de deed mus' be done, Dinah '11 let de fiah go 
out on de cabin harf, an '11 close de cabin doah ; she '11 
took a las' look at de ole home, an' wid Cupe an' de 
honey chile '11 slip away in de night." 

The head of the negress fell upon the coverlet, her 
eyes sought the bottle on the mantelpiece. For a long 
time she rested in this position, then attempted to rise, 
but irresistible languor held her in place. She reached 
up her hand, pointed to the vial, and wanderingly spoke : 
" Yo' wah sweet t' de taste, yo' honey bottle, but yo' 
caint tole Cupe nuffin, fo' de line am on de mark." 
Her eyes closed dreamily and she mumbled : " De 
Canerdy Lan' am cole an' de grabes ob de missus an' 
de chillun in Kaintuck am deah, but fo' de good ob de 
Susie chile an' de lub ob ole Cupe, Dinah '11 close de 
cabin doah ferebah." 



184 



CHAPTER XXIX 
cupe's story of the past 

TRUDGING through the gathering dusk of the 
evening, Cupe, with the sack on his back and the 
dog at his heels, reached the outskirts of Stringtown. 
He climbed the fence about one of the back lots, near 
one of the frame houses, and struck an alley-way, that 
led to the pike. Walking then along the sidewalk, he 
reached the door of Mr. Wagner. Once before, bearing 
the clothing of Susie, he had stood before that door, and 
having delivered his bundle had retreated with heavy 
heart. Now again with another bundle he stood on the 
same spot, hat in hand, his white head conspicuous in the 
gloom. Mr. Wagner opened the door, and recognising 
Cupe, invited him in. 

" You may drop your sack by the side of the door j it 
will be perfectly safe." 

" Ef et am de same t' yo', Ma'se Wagnah, I '11 sot et 
inside de room." 

" Certainly, do as you choose." 

Cupe not only " sot et inside de room," but he 
deposited it at his very feet, standing bareheaded beside 
the odd-looking package. 

Mr. Wagner made no attempt to induce the visitor to 
be seated, knowing that Cupe's negro training would 
not allow him to sit in the parlour of a white man. 
Looking about the room, Cupe spied upon the wall a 
trinket that once belonged to Susie. Beginning the con- 

185 



Stringtown on the Pike 

versation after the manner of the negro, he addressed the 
trinket instead of Mr. Wagner. 

" An' wha' es de Susie gearl what carry yo' in her 
han' ? Am yo' lonesome in de silence, do yo' lis'n fo' 
de tongue ob de pert chile dat am gone ? " 

Mr. Wagner could but feel a pang of remorse. He 
knew that Cupe was speaking to him, though addressing 
the inanimate trinket. 

Turning from that Cupe directly asked : " An' hab 
yo' hea'd any news from de honey gearl ? " 

*' None, excepting the statement of the furloughed sol- 
dier, who saw a child in camp before Murfreesboro." 

" An' did yo' send a man t' see ef et wah Susie ? " 

" Yes ; but he could find no trace of her. The 
Army of the Cumberland is constantly changing its 
location, and there has been heavy fighting. Cupe, 
God knows that I thought I was doing my duty to the 
child. Would that she were in her old home with you 
again ! " 

" Yoah yintention wah good, Ma'se Wagnah, an' 
Cupe doan bear no blame t' yo'. De trouble wah dat 
yo' tried t' cross Prov'dence an t' bre'k de workin' ob 
de sign. Cupe hab t' say es how he am t' blame fo' de 
crime, an' not yo'." 

" You, Cupid ! Why, you begged for possession of 
your charge. Your pleadings brought tears to my eyes, 
your voice has never left my ears. Had I listened to you, 
Susie would have been happy in your cabin now." 

" Et wah de Co'ht an' not yo', Ma'se Wagnah. Yo' 
did de biddin' ob de law, but de law am not es strong es 
de sign, fo' de sign am de biddin' ob God. Et wah 
Cupe who es t' blame, doan I tole yo', fo' he lose his 
head when de day ob trouble hove in sight." 

" How were you to blame ? " 
l8^ 



Cupe's Story of the Past 

" Ef Cupe had had his wits, he 'ud hab brought de sack 
vo' see on de flo'. De fool nigger lose his sense." 

Mr. Wagner looked inquiringly toward the sack. 

"■ Ef yo' '11 lis'n t' Cupe he '11 tole yo' what he should 
hab said de day yo' come fo' Susie." 

" Go on." 

Standing on the floor, the old man began his story. 
He forgot himself, he lost sight of his hearer, his tongue, 
keeping time with his vivid memory, became eloquent, 
as the words fell from his lips. 

" De day what perish long ago wah gone. Et went 
into de da'kness when ole iMa'se Hardman wah foun' 
dead in Bloody Hollah. De niggers shet demselbs in de 
cabin, skeahed nigh t' defF. De witches wah plattin' de 
ho'ses' tail in de bahn, de owl wah sittin' in de top ob 
de hick'ry tree lookin' mighty wise, but sayin' not a 
word. De sign wah in de air, an' Cupe go out in de 
night an' look in de watah ob de spring an' read de 
word. Et say dat young ma'se 'ud die on de New Yeah 
night, es yo' know he did die, an' dat Susie chile 'ud 
come es she did come, an' et say moah dan dat ; but yo' 
am consarned only wid what et say 'bout de chile. An' 
den de long yeahs pass, an' one mahn'n Cupe say : 
' Ma'se, t'-morrah mahn'n 'bout day broke Bloody 
Hollah '11 mix etself ag'in in yoah affairs.' 

" ' Damn Bloody Hollah ! ' say de ma'se. 

" ' A chile '11 be foun' by de lone grabe.' 

" ' Shet up yoah nigger signs ! ' say de ma'se. 

" ' An' de chile '11 come an' stay in dis cabin.' 

" ' Close yoah lips, I tole yo' ! ' an', sayin' dat, ma'se 
walk ofF. 

" But when de grey ob de mahn'n come, Cupe wah 
stan'n' by de doah ob de cabin, an' ma'se he op'n de 
doah an' walk out, es Cupe 'spected him t' do. He 

187 



Stringtown on the Pike 

look kindah queer when he see Cupe stan'n' dah, an' 
den he say : ' Cupe, yo' kin come wid me ; I 'm gwine 
t' show yo' dat nigger signs am fool signs.' But Cupe, 
he know dat de omen wah wo'kin' on de ma'se, an' he 
keep his mouf shet, an' follud de ma'se, who go straight 
fo' Bloody Hollah. An' when ma'se an' Cupe stan' on 
de hill an' look fru de fog, sump'n' wah to be seed in de 
hollah, sump'n' dat in de grey ob mahn'n wah mon- 
strous queer lookin'. Et wah on de Bloody Hollah 
grabe. An' ma'se he stop a minit kindah s'prised like, 
an' Cupe raise his han' an' pint down into de Hollah 
obah de shouldah ob de ma'se, an' say : 

" ' De signs am come'n true.' 

" ' Et am a cow,' say ma'se, an' tuhn back. 

" ' Et am not a cow, et am de chile pinted t' by de 
sign,' say Cupe, An' jes den de crittah rise up an' stan' 
on de grabe. Et wah tall an' slim an' red an' white, but 
de fog wah t'ick, an' only de colour an' de size could be 
seed. Et wah an awful sight, a skeery ting. 

" ' Et am not a chile,' say ma'se, an' he kindah 
shiver. 

" ' An' suah et am not a cow. Ef de sign am wrong 
et am monstrous queer,' say Cupe. 

" An' so ma'se stan' skeered like, an' Cupe wah kindah 
solium case de sign wah wrong. De crittah wah not a 
chile an' not a cow an' not like any uddah crittah. Jes 
den de breeze raise de fog, an' et show a lone woman 
holdin' sump'n' in her arms. De woman wah in a 
white dress, an' de bundle she hole wah red es blood. 
An' ma'se he look kindah cu'yus like at Cupe, an' den 
he swo' a cuss word, an' down into de Hollah he go, 
Cupe by his side. Befo' God, Ma'se Wagnah, et wah a 
lone woman, an' in her arms she hole Susie wrapped in 
a red shawl. 

1 88 



Cupe's Story of the Past 

"An' ma'se he say kindah cross-like: 'Wha' yo' 
come from ? ' An' de woman pinted to'ard de Norf. 
An' ma'se, he ax : ' Wha' yo' gwine t' ? ' An' she 
look down at de grabe. Ma'se, he stop a minit an' den 
say : ' Yo' am not alone, uddah people am gwine 'long 
on de same road, an' de soonah some ob dem gets t' de 
end de bettah fo' de worl',' say ma'se. 

"• Den ma'se look at de chile, an' kindah see sump'n' 
in ets eye t' make him t'ink a minit es Cupe 'spected 
him t' do when he seed dem eyes ag'in. He tuhns on 
de woman sudden like an' say : ' What fo' yo' brung 
dat chile heah ? Wha' yo' git dat chile ? ' 

" An' de woman say : ' Yo' know de look ob de eye 
ob de chile ? Wha' else kin de chile go ? ' 

"*To de debbil, wha' ets fahdah gwine, de coward.' 

" An' then ma'se look ag'in at de chile, an' say : ' De 
eyes ob de chile go back t' de day ets fahdah wah young. 
I see de sweet boy a-sittin' by my side ag'in. De dim- 
ple' cheek, de white skin. De eye ob de chile befo' me 
call back de day ob long ago.' Den he tuhn on de 
woman savage-like : ' Woman, I swo' once by all de 
gods an' debbils dat ef ebah de fahdah ob dat chile, er 
kin ob de fahdah, sot foot on de ole farm, ets life 'udn't 
be wufF de coppahs on a dead nigger's eyes. An' now 
yo' brung de ole times back, de times when de ' — den 
he bre'k ofF — ' damn de ole times ! ' he say. 

" De woman look down at de grabe an' cry. De 
chile look up into ma'se's face an' laugh, an' hole out 
ets little arms, an' den Cupe spoke, fo' he see wicked- 
ness risin' in ma'se's eye. 

" ' Ma'se, yo' swo' ef ebah de fahdah ob dat chile, er 
kin ob de fahdah, sot foot on de ole place yo'ud do 
mu'd'h.' 

"' Yes,' say ma'se ; ' an' one ob de varmints am heah 
189 



Stringtown on the Pike 

now, an' I 'tend t' choke de life out ob de brat.' He 
reach out his han', es ef t' grab de chile, an' den Cupe 
step betwixt de two. ' Hole yoah han' ! ' Cupe say, an' 
strike et down. ' De fahdah am not heah an' de chile am 
not stann on de groun\ Yo' hab mu'd'h in yoah heaht, 
an' hab no right t' act out de oaff les'n de chile am 
stan'n' on de earf.' 

" Ma'se stop a minit, an' den he say : ' Come t' de 
cabin ! ' 

" An' de woman come. Dah wa 'n't nuffin moah 
said, she jes come an' stay. De woman sleep wid de 
chile in de loP, an' Dinah sleep on de flo' ob de loP, an' 
Cupe sleep on de flo' ob de cabin room beside de bed ob 
ma'se. But de sign wah come true ! 

" Ma'se he keep away from de woman an' nebbah 
speak t' de chile fo' a long time. But he keep a mon- 
strous lookin' at ets big, roun' eyes, an' moah dan once 
Cupe cotch de tear drops stealin' down his rough cheek. 
But Cupe doan say nuffin fo' feah et 'ud cross de sign. 

" One day de muddah ob Susie say t' Cupe : ' Git me 
some writin' papah.' An' Cupe when he go t' String- 
town git a sheet. An' when he han' et t' her, she look 
at et kindah cu'yus like, an' say : ' Et am not nuff. I 
wan' t' write de story ob de chile.' An' Cupe nex' day 
git a whole pack ob big-size papah an' a dozen bright 
pencils. An' de muddah ob Susie take de papah an' 
write an' write. De days come an' go, an' she write 
an' write. Ma'se he doan say nuffin an' doan ax no 
quistions. He had n't any writin' sense. An' at las' de 
woman wrap de papah up an' write sump'n' on de out- 
side ob de pack. 

" Den nex' mahn'n she say t' ma'se : ' Dah am nusses 
wanted down in Tennessy.' 

" An' ma'se he say : ' A namb'lance train fo' de Souf 
190 



Cupe's Story of the Past 

am campin' in de fiel' by de pond ob Mr. Nordman 
now.' 

" An' de woman say nuffin fo' a time, an' den she go 
t' de cupboard an' take from et de red shawl what Susie 
wah wrapped in de mahn'n she wah found in Bloody 
Hollah." 

Cupe paused and turned his eyes to a tiny, well-worn 
shawl hanging from a peg in the wall, and in a solemn 
tone remarked, pointing with his finger as he did so : 
*' Dah am de bressed gahment now." 

Then he continued : " An' den de muddah took de 
chile in her arms an' cry. Ma'se he kindah feel dat 
sump'n' wah come'n, an' he say : ' De war am not fo' 
chillun.' 

" De woman stop a minit, an' den she say : ' May de 
chile stay ? ' 

" ' Yes,' say ma'se ; ' but ef de fahdah put foot on de 
place, dah '11 be a grabe dug ; et '11 be fo' him er me.' 

" Den she sot Susie in de little hick'ry cheer what 
Cupe done made fo' her, an' clime t' de lof ' an' come 
down wid de bundle ob papah an' lay et on de table. 

" ' What am in de bundle ? ' ax ma'se. 

"'A load ob sin.' 

" She take from her pocket a little purse (Cupe held 
up a silk purse) an' she lay et on de papah an' say : ' Et 
am all I hab.' Den she pick Susie up an' kiss an' hug 
her an' cry obah her, an' Dinah cry an' ma'se an' Cupe 
kindah feel bery solium' like. ' Doan none ob yo' follah 
me,' she say. ' De wages of sin am defF,' she muttah t' 
herselb, an' tuhn from de doah. But ma'se an' Cupe go 
out too, an' es de doah shet stan' by her side. ' What 
'bout de papah yo' write ? ' ma'se ax. 

" She stop an' look at ma'se an' Cupe, an' den 
she say : ' Ef ebah hahm pint t' Susie yo' kin use de 

191 



Stringtown on the Pike 

papah. Et '11 tole yo' wha' Susie hab de right t' lib an' 
et '11 gib de chile de libin' she am 'titled t' er et '11 brung 
shame t' de home ob a man who doan wan' no shame.' 

" ' What am in de papah ? ' 

" ' De story ob a life ob sin.' 

" ' An' de chile am mixed in de crime, de yinnecent 
chile ? ' Cupe ax. 

" ' Yes.' 

" ' Yo' lie, yo' lie, yo' muddah ob de chile,' ma'se 
say ; ' dah nebbah wah sin on an unbohn babe, an' no 
sin hab come t' Susie sense she wah bohn.' 

'' * Et wah case ob de muddah's sin.' 

" ' Yo' lie ag'in ! De muddah what bear de chile, de 
muddah what hole de chile t' her bos'm when de cussed 
man hide hims head, de muddah what face de shame an' 
face de worl' wid de chile in her arms am pure — by all 
de gods she am pure ! Et am de man who sin', an' yo' 
know et, de coward who sneak off an' lebe yo' t' bear de 
chile alone, de cur who sit smilin' now. Et am nebbah 
de muddah wid de chile on her bos'm, but always de 
man who am de sneakin' dawg, de sinnin' brute, de 
coward ! ' 

" Den de muddah ob Susie say : ' Ef yo' am right de 
worl' am wrong, fo' de worl' say de chile an' de muddah 
am de sinners. An' et wah case ob de sin dat I take 
my chile an' go 'way fo' de good ob de fahdah, who am 
safe.' 

" ' But,' she go on, * ef trouble rise up an' yo' wan' 
Susie t' stay in de cabin, let de story be read. De man 
who de papah pints to '11 send money.' 

" ' Damn de man an' damn his money ! ' say ma'se. 
' Nebbah yo' min' de money ; when yo' am back from 
de war yo 'II fin' de chile in de cabin, an' dah '11 be a 
place fo' yo' ; but no place fo' his dirty money.' 

192 



Cupe's Story of the Past 

" She turn t' go, den she stop ag'in. ' Be keerful 
who reads de story ; et am not to' scandal tongue,' she 
say. An' den she walk 'way. She go alone t' de 
yamb'lance train ! " Cupe stopped. 

" And did you hear nothing from her afterward ? " 
Cupe took from his pocket-book the clipping of a 
newspaper, which Mr. Wagner read aloud : 

A NURSE KILLED 

A shell from a rebel battery near Dallas, Georgia, Tuesday 
morning struck and instantly killed a nurse. She came in an 
ambulance train from Kentucky, but nothing is known of her 
history. Heedless of her own safety, she moved about the 
field, succouring the wounded of both armies. Careless of her- 
self, in the thick of battle, while holding a canteen of water to 
the mouth of a dying soldier, her life was suddenly destroyed. 
Nothing that could give a clue to her identity was found among 
her meagre effects, nothing but an addressed, stamped envelope, 
in which was a request that in case of her death a simple state- 
ment of the fact be mailed in the same envelope, and that no 
effort be made to find her friends. Only this and the following 
request added as a postscript : *' Please lay me out in white." 

As Mr. Wagner ceased reading, Cupe broke in : 

" She say, ' De wages ob sin am defF,' an' she am 
dead, but befo' God, de sin wah not hern." 

" A sad story, Cupid, but it is told too late. The 
mother is dead, the child is lost." 

" Ef de chile could be foun', Ma'se Wagnah ? " 

" Impossible ! " 

" 'Ud yo' gib de keepin' ob de chile t' de brack 
fo'ks ? " 

" The child is gone.'^ 

Cupe leaned over, opened the sack at his feet, took 
from it the oblong package of manuscript handed him by 
13 193 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Dinah, and said : "When de candle am Ughted t'-morrah 
ebenin' in de grocery Cupe '11 come t' de grocery-store 
meetin'. Yo' hab de papah written by de woman lyin' 
in de battle groun' ob Georgia. Ef yo '11 read de lines 
p'raps yo' would raddah de chile stay wid de nigger." 

The negro turned to the door : " De writin' am only 
fo' yo' ; et am none ob Stringtown's consahn." The 
door closed and Mr. Wagner retired to his room. 

When morning broke, the village clerk sat in his 
chair; the manuscript before him had been read a 
second time ; his head rested on his hand, the lamp 
still burned, for Mr. Wagner, in deep reflection, gave 
no thought to the passage of time. 



194 



CHAPTER XXX 

CUPE PURCHASES HIS WIFE 

CUPE after leaving Mr. Wagner did not go directly 
home. Instead, with the sack over his shoulder, 
he sought the dwelling of Judge Elford. Once before 
he had passed from door to door of these two houses, 
and this second reception at the home of Judge Elford 
was nearly a repetition of the first one. The negro was 
invited into the sitting-room, and in kindly tones asked 
to state his business. 

Glancing about, he threw in a side remark, by way 
of introduction : 

" De bot'm ob de cheer yo' wah sittin' in am in 
trouble ag'in, Ef yo '11 let de nigger took et home, he '11 
put in a new bot'm ? " 

" All right, Cupe," said the judge, knowing well that 
this was not the business which brought his caller at 
that hour. 

'' Et am many yeahs sense Cupe larn' t' bot'm cheers. 
De cohn-shuck twist am hardah dan de hick'ry strip, an' 
de hick'ry bot'm las' de best." 

" Let it be a hickory bottom." 

" Lawd, de dimes an' qua'tahs what Cupe made 
bot'min' cheers fo' Stringtown fo'k," the old darkey 
remarked, and reached again into the sack ; taking 
therefrom the heavy oblong tin box, he stepped defer- 
entially to the desk of the judge and placed it before him, 
inserted a tiny key into the lock, turned it, raised the lid 
and stepped back, 

195 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Beneath the cover lay a neatly folded paper, which 
Judge Elford opened and read at Cupe's request. Then 
he looked in surprise at the negro and remarked : 

" Your freedom, Cupe, you are a free man ! These 
papers were drawn up fifty years ago ; they are properly 
signed and witnessed." 

The old man chuckled. " Dah am 'nuddah papah," 
he said. 

" Yes," the judge continued, reading again : " This 
paper is a bill of sale. In consideration of twelve hun- 
dred dollars, to be paid by Cupid Hardman to the legal 
heir of your recent master, Dinah is to be freed." 

Again the negro chuckled : " An '11 yo' count dc 
money in de box ? " He leaned over, by an effort 
carefully inverted the box on the desk, and raised it. 
Within were coins of every size and description. The 
astonished judge, though rejoicing in his humble friend's 
triumph, was reluctant to undertake the tedious task 
suggested by the negro, who himself realised that it 
was a task. 

" Dah am 'zac'ly twelve hund'd dollahs. Yo' kin 
take yoah time t' count ct." The wrinkled fingers of 
the slave playfully stirred the medley of coins. Picking 
up a silver dollar, Cupe scrutinised it closely, saying : 
" De mark am on yo' yit — de mark ob de file. Kin 
yo' memberlec' de night yo' wah handed to Cupe, de 
night ob de shiveree ? De bright young missus in de 
house on de pike han' yo' t' Cupe, an' say : 'Fo' waitin' 
on de table, Cupe.' God bress her sweet face ! Cupe 
sees her yit es she smile at de nigger dat wed'n' night, 
de night she marry Ma'se Nordman. But de face am 
sah'rin' now — one chile wearin' de Blue, de uddah 
wearin' de Grey." 

Unwrapping the tissue paper from a five-dollar gold 
196 



Cupe purchases his Wife 

piece, Cupe abruptly addressed the judge : " Did yo' 
ebah see dis shinin' piece befo' ? " Then continued, 
without v/aiting for an answer : " An' why should yo' 
know de coin from ets bruddahs ? Yo' hab seed many 
like et, suah. But Cupe mahked dis beauty, an' heah 
am de mahk." He pointed to a tiny cross. *' Do yo' 
min' de day Cupe hole de strap an' let de coffin ob de 
missus down into de earf ? An' do yo' min' dat es 
Cupe pass yoah doah dat night yo' came out an' slip 
de shinin' gol' into his han' ? Dis am dat coin, Ma'se 
Elford." Cupe turned it slowly between his fingers. 
" Et am es bright es de day et wah buried, an' de face 
ob de angel missus in Heaben am shinin' bright es dat 
gol'. De grabe caint rub de shine off de gol' yo' gib in 
her name. But dah ain't no use in sech memberlectins. 
De money am all honest now, fo' Cupe made et square, 
but de Lawd knows wha' some ob et hab be'n." 

The negro paused in his speech, and fingered the 
gold. The judge was silent. Evidently his thoughts 
were in the solemn past, which had been recalled by 
Cupe's artful tongue. By and by he asked : " Is this 
money for the purpose of buying your wife, Dinah ? " 

" Et am. Dis nigger hab be'n sab'n' de money fo' 
de pu'pose. De patch ob t'backah what he raise in de 
Satuhday afternoon am buhned long, long ago ; de rabbet 
what he sell t' Stringtown fo'ks am gone, an' pow'ful 
many ob de fo'ks what eat et am dead ; de cheer bot'ms 
what Cupe put in hab been wo'n out, but de money dey 
brung am safe. Yo' kin count et at yoah ease, Ma'se 
Elford ; et am all dah." He turned to the door. 

" Take the papers, Cupe, your own and Dinah's 
freedom papers." The negro hesitated. " Ef et am de 
same t' yo', Ma'se, de papahs an' de money may stay 
t'geddah. Mebby dah won't be no use fo' de papahs. 

197 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Cupe doan wan' no disgrace on his head, an' doan 'tend 
t' hab no disgrace." 

" Explain your meaning." 

" Ef some mahn'n de cry come t' Stringtown dat Cupe 
an' Dinah am gone, ef de cabin am empty an' de doah 
locked, ef dah hain't be'n no good-bye said, de fo'ks ob 
dis heah town '11 'cuse Cupe an' Dinah ob stealin' dem- 
selbs an' runnin' 'way t' Canerdy. Ef sech tings come 
will yo' Stan' in de co'ht an' show dat freedom papah ob 
Cupe an' count dc money he pay fo' Dinah into de box 
ob de co'ht ? " 

" I will." 

" An' sabe de honah ob de two ole slabes ? " 

" You may depend upon it." 

Again Cupe turned to the door, and again he stopped. 
" But ef Cupe an' Dinah keep libin' in de cabin, bettah 
yo' keep de papahs an' de money, an' keep all de fac's 
t' yo'selb ; an' ef Cupe an' Dinah die in de cabin, de 
papahs am t' be read by de preachah at de grabe's side, 
fo' Cupe wan's t' go into Heaben free, an' t' hab a free 
wife too." 

" And the money ? " 

" De money am fo' Susie, ef she ebah am foun'." 

" Susie is gone forever." 

" Do yo' 'member what Cupe tole yo' de night he 
Stan' in dis room an beg fo' de chile ? " 

" Yes." 

" He say : ' De law say dat de chile caint lib wid 
Cupe, but de sign say dat she mus' lib wid Cupe.' An' 
Susie am gone ferebah, yo' say, but Cupe b'lebe in de 
sign, an' Cupe say dat she am not gone, but '11 come 
back when de law am out ob de way." 

" What do you mean, Cupe ? " 

" 'Ud yo' let her stay wid de brack fo'ks ef she wah 
t' come back ? " 198 



Cupe purchases his Wife 

The judge looked quickly at the earnest old slave and 
a sudden light came over his face. " Yes," he impul- 
sively added, " if Susie is found her home may be with 
you until she asks to go elsewhere." 

" An' so God am greatah dan de law," said Cupe. 
" Yo' may fold dem papahs 'way, Ma'se, case Cupe doan 
'tend t' be freed. Ef he wah a free man he could n't 
stay in de cabin. Et am monstrous pleasant t' be a 
slabe an' not t' worry obah de rent er feed. Et am 
pow'ful satisfyin' t' de soul t' open de eyes in de mahn'n 
an' see de cohn a-growin' an' heah de chicken an' de 
duck crowin' an' a-talkin' an' t' know dat de flour sack 
an' de meal bah'l am full. Cupe an' Dinah '11 jes wait 
in de cabin an' be slabes 'til dey die, an' ef Susie comes 
back t' Stringtown she '11 fin' de cabin doah open an' de 
cubbah spread on de table. Jes sot de money to 'side 
fo' her in case ob a rainy day, an' read de papahs ob 
freedom obah de grabe ob de niggers, an' den gib de 
money t' de Susie chile." Cupe backed out of the 
room and closed the door behind him. 

The lamp that threw its light over the open book 
wherein Mr. Wagner once had read the lines that saved 
Cupe, " By Right of Clergy," lighted the desk, now 
weighted with coin collected during that man's many 
days of bondage. As the door closed the judge mur- 
mured : " Thank God the negro has found the child, 
but how can I explain to Mr. Wagner that he must give 
up Susie ? " 



199 



CHAPTER XXXI 

" A FEARFUL SIGN " 

THE edge of winter, moving down from the North, 
had brought mist and cloud. The air of the 
day just passed had been saturated with gloom and 
shade. The clouds hung low ; they scraped the tree- 
tops in the woodland on the hill, but no rain had fallen 
from their sombre folds. Instead, cool breezes arose 
that grew cooler as the day sped and fairly cold when 
evening came. If the sun moved across the heavens 
that day no ray from it reached the earth. The pre- 
ceding night had turned directly into leaden day, the 
dreary day had worn itself out and disappeared in gloom ; 
there had been no twilight of morn or eve, there had 
been no blending of light and darkness. 

When Cupe stepped into the house of Mr. Wagner 
it was still daytime, yet the lamp was lighted ; when he 
stepped out again night had come, but no brighter lamp- 
light was needed than before the day had fairly sped. 

There was no moon, but had there been a full moon 
high in the heavens no ray could have pierced that thick 
cloak. The heavens and the earth were hidden from 
sight. When Cupe left the door of Judge Elford the 
darkness above and below had run together ; distance 
had disappeared ; there was no near, no far. 

Never before had that night-loving man felt the 
200 



*'A Fearful Sign" 



weight of darkness. He stood in the street and rubbed 
his eyes;, opened them wide, muttered and stood ex- 
pectant, but saw no light save an occasional window 
gleam, which served but to deepen the surrounding 
blackness. 

" Et am monstrous strange fo' a nigger t' be caught 
by de da'kness, et am s'prisin' cu'yus. When a nigger 
sleep et am in de sunshine ; de sof'ness ob de sunshine 
am soovin' t' de eye. When de night-time come, do 
cat, de dawg, de coon, de 'possum an' de nigger am on 
dere feet. De night-time am de time fo' de brack man 
t' be awake, de daytime am de time fo' de nigger t' 
sleep. An' so et wah in de hot Guinee country Cupe's 
gran'dad come from, when eb'ry creature sleep in de 
day an' run in de night. Dat habit am wid de nigger 
yet." 

Cupe struggled along, aided by the slender light that 
came from an occasional window, until he turned into 
a field below the village. Then impenetrable darkness 
closed in upon him ; the tree-top, waving above, made 
no mark against the sky, the horizon gave no streak to 
lighten the gloom ; above and below the deepest dark- 
ness reigned. 

Suddenly to the right he caught sight of a moving 
light that floated slowly in a horizontal direction over 
the earth, seemingly a few feet above its surface. The 
eyes of the negro were riveted on the phenomenon, 
which — a globe of light, not a flame — flitted in and 
out of sight as it passed behind a clump of bushes or a 
tree trunk, to reappear again. Following the undulating 
surface of the ground, it moved steadily along, now to 
the right, now to the left, but ever onward toward the 
spot where stood the man whose eyes were fixed on the 
strange illumination, which was neither spark nor flame 

20I 



Stringtown on the Pike 

nor any form of fire. There was no wind. The negro 
thrust a finger into his mouth, withdrew it and held it 
in the air above his head, but no touch of coldness came 
to either side j and still the glimmer flittered back and 
forth, careless alike to path or road, drawing closer with 
each change of direction. 

When but a few feet from the negro its direction 
changed, and then for the first time it started straight 
for his person, floating about a foot above the earth. 
This final action was responded to by the old man, who, 
until this time, but for the single movement by which 
he had tested the wind, had stood like a statue. With 
a motion strangely rapid for one so aged, he jerked his 
coat from his person, quickly turned the sleeves wrong 
side out, and then drew it on again. The globe of light 
vibrated as if in response to the action, tremulously 
moved up and down like a lantern in a wave-rocked 
boat, then turned to the right, passed about five feet 
from the negro, and proceeding now in a direct line dis- 
appeared in an adjacent thicket. 

" Yo' cussed Jack o' Lantern, an' ef yo' had got on 
dis nigger's back yo' 'ud hab rode him 'til mahn'n. But 
Cupe know how t' circumbent yo', yo' debbil's light. 
No Jack o' Lantern dare tech de man who w'ars de coat 
wrong side out. Yo' sly cuss, yo' wabbled about es ef 
yo' wah not keerin' fo' de nigger, but yo' caint fool dis 
chile. Lawd, but et wah a close call ; fo' ef yo' had 
come from b'hin', yo' 'ud hab jumped on de nigger an' 
rode him till de light ob day. Niggers hab be'n cotched 
by de Jack o' Lanterns and rode all de libelong night, 
obah de hill, fru de briars an' in de grabeyard. An' 
when dey come home in de mahn'n, tired an' near 'bout 
dead, de ma'se say dey hab be'n out t' a shindig dance ; 
but et am God's fac' dat de Jack o' Lanterns cotch 

202 



"A Fearful Sign" 

niggers what doan know de coat sign, an' ride 'em like 
es ef dey wah ho'ses." ^ 

His quick ear caught a familiar sound, the breaking 
of brush, caused by the motion of an animal in a 
briar patch. A smile broke over his face and he joy- 
ously called out, " Come heah, Dgawge ! " and the 
dog's cold nose soon touched his hand and his side 
rubbed against the negro's leg. Reaching his hand into 
his pocket, the slave took therefrom a roll of twine ; 
one end of the string he tied about the neck of the dog, 
the other he held in his hand. " Keep in de pafF an' go 
home, yo' fool ! " ordered the master, and together man 
and dog moved onward. " Dis am a monstrous shame 
t' any nigger, an' t' t'ink dat Cupe should ebah feel de 
disgrace ob such a ting es dis. Et am lucky dat et am 
night, fo' de shame am moah dan Cupe could bear in 
daylight. But de dawg caint tole nobody, an' nobody 
but de dawg am heah t' see de shame ob de nigger. Et 
am a monstrous shame, an' et am a fearful sign ; de 
Lawd only knows de meanin' ob sech a sign." 



^ If the old negroes did not believe that to wear a coat wrong side 
out would protect them from the " Jack o' Lantern " they affected 
as much. They also affected to believe that the negro caught by 
one would be ridden until morning. 



203 



CHAPTER XXXII 

THE SPIRITS AFFECT DINAH 

STEP by step these companions, the faithful brute 
and the bonded slave, had journeyed from String- 
town, until now the dog's nose was prone against the 
front door of the cabin, which Cupe could not see. 
*' Dah hab be'n f 'mil'ar signs 'long de pafF, but de dawg 
caint talk an' de da'kness ob night am cubbahin' de way. 
Dah wah a roun' rail on de las' fence we climbed, et 
wah suah de fence what once stood befo' de cabin, but 
dah ain't no cabin heah. Ef de ebil sperrits hab mobed 
dat fence an' bent dat pafF t' fool de ole man, dah am 
trouble befo' his steps, an' he mus' move monstrous 
keerful. De debbil may be restin' at de end ob dis walk. 
An' de dawg won't move no moah. Et am de fust time 
dat dawg hab gone back on his ma'se. Go home, 
Dgawge Wash'n't'n ! " A jerk at the string, and the 
dog in reply bayed long, tremulously, and stood still, his 
nose close against the cabin door. " Et am a painful 
howl yo' am makin', Dgawge. I hab nebbah hea'd sech 
talk befor'. De voice yo' speak when yo' tree de coon, 
de 'possum er de rabbet am plain, but Cupc nebbah 
hea'd yo' talk befo' like dis. What yo' see t' make 
sech talk es dat ? An' only t' t'ink ob de shame ob de 
nigger." Suddenly he raised his head, snufFed the air, 
and dropped the string. " Et am t'back, et am de han' 
ob backey what hang 'side de cabin doah. De smell am 
not t' be mistook'n." Again he snufFed the air. " Et 

204 



The Spirits affect Dinah 

am de cabin yo' hab treed, Dgawge ; yo' nebbah treed 
de cabin befo', an' dat es why yo' talk so strange." 
Reaching out his hand, the door was found, and Cupe 
at once gave a loud rap. There was no response. 
Again he knocked, with no better result. Cupe slowly 
moved his fingers over the door. The latch string hung 
out. " Befo' de Lawd, an' what am de mattah wid 
Dinah ! " Opening the door, he groped about inside, 
reached the mantelpiece, struck a match, and lighted the 
candle. The child lay asleep on the little bed. Dinah, 
with head thrown back so that it rested on the edge of 
the bed, lay sprawled upon the floor. 

" By de bones ob my gran'pap ! " 

No other word did Cupe utter, — that unusual expres- 
sion, a relic of his old master, expressed the depth of his 
surprise. Stepping to the prostrate form, he held the 
candle before the sleeper's lips ; the flame leaned out- 
ward ; breath was there. Raising it slightly, he moved 
the light back and forth before her eyes. No move- 
ment. " Et am monstrous strange," he muttered. 
Kneeling, he placed his nose close to her lips, and at 
once a scowl spread over his black face. " De cause 
am cleah ef de night am da'k." Cupe stepped to the 
mantelpiece, and grasping the bottle, held it before the 
light. " De cause am not so cleah," he mumbled, as he 
saw that the surface of the liquid marked the exact spot 
where he had left it. Shaking his head, the old negro 
uncorked the bottle and raised it to his nose : " Et am 
lickah." He thrust the neck into his mouth, his flabby 
lips sucked about the shoulder of the bottle, gurgle after 
gurgle followed, and when he replaced the flask more 
than half the contents had disappeared, " Et am a 
shame," he muttered, " et am a shame dat a gem'n 
mus' swallah so much watah fo' so little lickah." 

205 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Grasping Dinah by the shoulders, Cupe gave her a 
violent jerk, which raised her fairly upon her feet ; and 
as she opened her eyes, he thrust the woman upon a 
wooden-bottomed chair with a shock that brought her to 
consciousness. Standing before her, Cupe shook his fist 
close to her face and said, in a deep, dramatic tone : 

"Dah am direful signs t'-night ; dey come from in de 
cabin an' out ob de cabin, from de air an' from de earf." 

Dinah, dazed and drowsy, only stared back at the old 
man, who continued : " De signs am t'ickenin' an' 
pintin', but de debbil only knows wheddah de end am 
good er bad." 

Still no reply. 

" But de signs am not so worryin' es de nigger's dis- 
grace." 

" What disgrace ? " queried Dinah, rubbing her eyes. 

" Dah hab be'n double disgrace on Cupe dis night." 

" What done disgrace yo' ? " 

" Cupe hab queered hisse'f, fo' he hab be'n los', an' 
yo' hab brung disgrace t' him too." 

" Dah hab be'n no disgrace ob yoah wife, ef yo' hab 
be'n los'," retorted Dinah, with offended dignity. 

" Dah hab be'n two disgraces ob Dinah. Yo' hab 
be'n drunk, an' yo' hab stol'n lickah. Dah am no wus- 
sah a sin dan t' steal lickah." 

•■' Befo' God, Cupe Hardman, dis nigger hab n't seed 
ner teched a drop ob lickah fo' a yeah ! " 

" An' dah am now anuddah disgrace, fo' yo' hab tole 
a lie. De debbil hab got yo,' suah." 

" De bottle am jes' es yo' lef ' et, Cupe Hardman ; et 
am on de mantelpiece an' am full." She turned her eyes 
to the vial, and was startled to find it half emptied. 

" De bottle am 'witched ; et wah full t' de line," she 
added. 

206 



The Spirits affect Dinah 

Cupe held up his hand, motioning her to cease speak- 
ing, but the alarmed woman continued : 

" De ebil sperrits am in de house, dey hab be'n in et 
all day. When Dinah heat de graby in de skillet an' 
poah de watah out ob de cup into et, de skillet fly into 
pieces. De debbil broke dat skillet, suah." 

" Yo' wah drunk, yo' fool, an' dreamed yo' poahed 
watah into de skillet, but yo' poahed et into de bottle. 
Yo' drunk a gill ob whiskey, an' den yo' fill de bottle up 
wid watah, an' hab be'n dreamin' like a drunken nigger 
dreams. De debbil '11 git yo' lyin' soul." Dinah 
pointed to the hearth, where fragments of the vessel 
were scattered. " Do de dream bre'k a skillet ? " 

Cupe, more disturbed by the evidence of the broken 
skillet than he cared to admit, said solemnly : " Yo' hab 
be'n pow'ful wicked. Yo' know yo' drunk de lickah." 

" An' what ef I did took a drop, yo' hain't no cause 
t' jaw. Yo' bettah clean yoah own toof befo' yo' pick 
Dinah's." 

" What yo' mean t' 'sinuate .'' " 

" Wha' yoah million patch, Cupe Hardman ? " 

" What yo' talkin' 'bout ? " 

" De night de fust singer sit in de tree an' sing, six 
weeks ago t'-morrah night, yo' slip out ob de cabin an' wah 
gone 'bout an hour. Yo' come back wid two watah- 
millions in de meal sack 'cross yoah shoulders." 

" De cause am easy t' 'splain." 

" Yo' got no million patch, yo' stealin' nigger." 

" I tole yo' de cause am easy t' 'splain. De million 
yo' foun' in one en' ob de sack wah growin' cross de 
pafF, an' Cupe jes ease de paff, fo' feah et hurt some 
fellah's foot." 

" But de uddah million." 

" De sack wah lop-sided den, an' Cupe could n't 
207 



Stringtown on the Pike 

carry et. Et wah a sin t' waste de fruit, so he go back 
an' eben de weight by sHppin' ets mate from jes inside 
de fence an' put et into de uddah end." 

" Bettah yo' say nuffin 'bout de drop ob lickah, Cupe. 
Et wah pow'ful sweet t' de taste, an' so wah de millions. 
Dinah taste em bof, an' am gollified t' speak." 

" Dinah, fo' de sake ob de smoove argyment yo' make, 
dah will be fergibness dis once, but ef ebah yo' does sech 
a ting ag'in, so suah es my name es Cupe Hardman 
I '11 sole yo' down Souf." 

" Yo '11 sole me Souf, yo' nigger ! yo' bettah own 
yo'selb befo' yo' talk 'bout solin' uddah fo'ks ! " 

" Dinah, yo' am in my pocket. I bought an' paid fo' 
yo' t'-night, an' ef ebah yo' disgrace yoah owner ag'in 
es yo' hab dis night, yo' bettah look out, fo' de tramp t' 
Georgy am sahtin suah." 

" An' hab yo' bought yo'selb too? " 

" Yes." 

" De Lawd be praised, Cupe ! I know yo' hab be'n 
sabin' money fo' fifty yeahs, an' I know yo '11 use et 
when de time come. Ef we am free niggers, we kin 
walk t' Canerdy in de daylight." 

" Et am de sacred truiF, Dinah ; yo' hab got sense 
nuff t' see in de daytime, ef yo' am a woman. A 
woman am like a dish-rag, Dinah, she am monstrous 
convenient in her place, but ef she git out ob et she 
ain't wuff nuffin t' nobody. Doan yo' fergit yoah place, 
Dinah." 

This diversion changed the current of Cupe's 
thoughts, and he dropped at once the subject of Dinah's 
failings and recurred to his personal misadventure. 

" Dah wah 'nuddah sign, an' et wah a disgrace t' 
Cupe. His eyes wah los' t'-night, an' de nigger had t' 
tie hisse'f t' de dawg t' fin' de cabin," 

208 



The Spirits afFect Dinah 

" Wah yo' drunk ? " The wife's eyes twinkled. 

" Et wah sperrits suah, but ebil sperrits, not lickah, 
an' de en' am not yet." 

" P'raps de same ebil sperrits shet yoah eyes, Cupe, 
what take de lickah out ob de bottle t' git Dinah into 
trouble." 

" Zacly," said Cupe ironically ; " but yo' bettah be 
keerful dey doan do et ag'in. De bodin' signs am 
thick'nin' up. Keep yoah eyes peeled, an' be ready, fo' 
ef de workin' ob de sign am ebil, de cabin doah '11 close, 
an' yo '11 staht wid Cupe fo' de Norf in de night-time." 



M 209 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

OLD JEW MOSE AND SAMMY DREW 

THAT night I sat in our home by my mother's 
side, brooding over the humiliations my apparent 
dullness daily brought upon me at the Stringtown school. 
Hitherto I had borne the stigma in dumb, indifferent, 
careless fashion, but as perceptions quickened, my short- 
comings that had long been manifest to others, suddenly 
flashed into mental view. Shame reddened my brown 
cheek, and realizing that the Stringtown school was no 
longer the place for me, I implored my mother to allow 
me to seek instruction elsewhere. Never in Stringtown 
could I win the respect of my comrades nor of myself, nor 
regain the ground that had been lost. That distasteful 
front row at school, where I sat among the little boys, 
— the hateful scene, daily enacted, left an indelible im- 
pression upon me, and all these humiliations were vivid 
at this moment. At last it became impossible to restrain 
my grief and I cried in despair, " I cannot go back, I 
cannot, I cannot ! " 

" But," pleaded my mother, " we are very poor. By 
close economy we can live here where we own the little 
home your father left us; elsewhere we would starve. 
God has blessed us with health; for this be thankful, we 
cannot ask him for wealth." Tears streaked their way 
down my cheeks, but under the soothing tones of my 
mother's voice the gush of grief had given place to a 
mood of seriousness. 

At this point in our conference a knock interrupted 
2IO 



old Jew Mose and Sammy Drew 

the scene, and when I opened the door Mose the Jew 
entered. His smiling face gleamed in the lamplight, and 
by invitation he seated himself at my side. 

Mose was dressed in his holiday garments, and, per- 
haps in order to suppress our curiosity on that account, 
he told us that he was returning from the city. Once 
a year, every September, Felix Moses, in a new suit of 
clothes, met in religious ceremony with his own people 
in Cincinnati. But, so far as we knew, until the next 
fall he did not again seek the house wherein his kinsmen 
worshipped. On his return from the present trip he 
had sought our home ; and so unusual was it for him to 
visit a townsman except on business, as to cause both 
my mother and myself secretly to wonder. Divining 
our thoughts, Mose soon enlightened and likewise 
amazed us. 

"To-morrow night I shall start to join the rebel 
army." 

" You, Mose ? " exclaimed mother. 

" Yes. I have sold my horse and wagon, collected 
my accounts, bought a young horse and outfit, and six 
of us start South to-morrow night." 

" You are neither young nor a fighting man and your 
people do not love war." 

" I am of the tribe of Judah. My people love peace, 
but have taken part in war since the beginning of his- 
tory. Our wealth has contributed to the maintenance 
of the cause of all nations and our bones have whitened 
the battlefields of every land, ancient and modern." 

" But this war is not of the Jews' making." 

" We are at home in all countries, and the Jew makes 
sacrifices for the right as he sees it." 

" Your people are mostly in favour of the North ; do 
any of your Jew friends champion the South ? " 

211 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Old Man Nordman has a son in each army ; who 
can say which son is in the wrong ? " 

Evidently the man had considered the subject from 
every side. He rose to depart — held out his hand — 
and as he did so, took from his coat pocket a package 
and handed it to mother, saying — " Your child has no 
longer a father," he said sadly. " I know that you built 
great hopes on the money that was to come to you by 
the will of the Corn Bug. But that is lost. I have no 
use for money now, I may never return, and if I do I 
can begin anew. Use the money you find in this pack- 
age to educate the boy." 

Some spot in every life is sacred ; neither pen nor 
tongue should touch the arcanum that lies in some of 
these depths. 



212 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

THE VILLAGE CIRCLE OF STRINGTOWN 

A CLEAR sunset ushered in the next night, the 
evening that brought the first frost of the season. 
Mist and cloud were brushed away by a wind from the 
north, which left the air sparkling and crisp. The 
voices of the green-winged singers that for six weeks had 
joyously chirped in tree and shrub, and their relatives, 
the katydids, that during the summer had called and 
answered each other, were hushed. No rustling leaves, 
no cry of insect, no motion of bush, broke the still, 
crisp night. Great was this contrast to the shrieking 
blast, the banging shutters, the creaking sign and the 
beating sleet, that rang their changes when our village 
circle had met, ten months ago. 

The quiet air, penetratingly cold, spoke of frost and 
foretold that slivers of ice before morning would surely 
form in the shallows of exposed hoof-tracks. For weeks 
the swallows had been flocking in the meadows. Their 
noisv chirps but the day before had sounded in the ear 
of the passer-by. Gathering from their nesting places, 
these glossy songsters during the summer had collected 
into great flocks. The tops of the dead trees about the 
meadow pond of Mr. Nordman were black with their 
glittering forms. Never before had they seemed so 
noisy. But when next morning broke, the upstretched 
branches were bare, the field was deserted. Buried in 
the cloud depths above and out of sight of man, they 

213 



Stringtown on the Pike 

had risen in the night and turned their eyes to the 
South. 

As a rule, few stars could be seen of a summer even- 
ing through the heavy-laden atmosphere. But now, 
responsive to the crisp, transparent night, numbers of 
tiny points sprang into view and twinkled. The star- 
built sickle, which during the early part of June crossed 
the meridian in the evening's twilight, now had sunk 
below the western horizon. The Great Dipper, which 
during the early summer evenings had balanced itself over 
the meridian's line, the bowl west, the handle east of it 
now, low in the north, hung just above the earth's edge 
The milkmaid's path, which in June had started from 
the northwest, marked its way close to the eastern hori- 
zon, to slope down and disappear in the southeast, was 
now a broad, white band overhead, extending across the 
sky from the northeast to the southwest. 

One by one the members of the Circle " dropped " 
into place that frosty Saturday evening, until, when the 
lamps were lighted, most of the inverted nail kegs upon 
which the villagers seated themselves were occupied. 
The clerk, Mr. Wagner, sat in his mutilated chair; 
Judge Elford balanced himself upon his one-legged seat, 
and Professor Drake, book in hand, sat on his bookcase 
high stool, beneath the lamp. 

But in the shadow cast by the stove-pipe, Cupe 
slipped quietly early in the evening, and stood in the 
corner. Whenever the door opened he was screened 
from sight, but his willing hand closed the door after 
each newcomer. Down the aisle, before the counter, 
stretched the only vacant strip of floor unbroken by 
stool, keg or other obstacle. It was the reserved spot 
where stood the grocer's patrons while their packages 
of tea, sugar and other trifling purchases were being 

214 



The Village Circle of Stringtown 

wrapped. Recognising the business right of the pro- 
prietor, the circle invariably reserved this space for his 
convenience. 

Suddenly when there was a pause in the talk the 
quiet, frost-breeding air brought to our ear the click of 
metal striking against stone. At the sound all listened 
with raised heads. Cupe softly turned the knob and 
opened the door slightly, lapping his ear over the edge. 
They had not long to wait, for soon the clatter of many 
hoofs beating the stones of Stringtown pike came 
through the still night air. Only one word was 
spoken : " Yankees.^' The grocer stepped to where I 
sat, grabbed the armoured saddle, dragged it from be- 
neath me and thrust it hastily into an empty salt barrel, 
which he inverted and rolled beside Cupe, after which 
act he quickly lifted me to a seat on its head. A pile of 
bundled garments, blankets, canteens, belts and other 
accoutrements on an exposed shelf was hastily seized in 
willing hands and stuffed as unceremoniously into the 
empty nail-keg seats from which each man arose. 
Quickly all the contraband articles were concealed and 
the kegs again inverted. Every man now sat silent in 
his accustomed place. Only the old negro had been 
deliberate ; it was he who deftly concealed a contribution 
from our Stringtown girls, a package that contained a 
satin banner stitched by loving fingers. White ground- 
work in one corner of that folded flag was starred in 
blue and the banner was embellished with three broad 
stripes, a white one bounded by two red bars. The 
emblem had previously been wrapped in rubber cloth, 
and Cupe thrust it carefully into a capacious pocket. 
As the grocer handed the flag to the negro he remarked : 
" The Yankees '11 not sarch a nigger." 

In a few moments the door opened, and the Red-Head 
215 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Boy of Nordman entered. He shot quick glances about 
the room, then, as unconcerned as the other occupants 
seemed to be, stepped to the counter, asked the grocer 
for five cents' worth of raisins, making a face as he did 
so at me as I sat on the barrel, and I viciously mouthed 
back again. Then there came the sound of rattling 
scabbards, the clash of metal against metal, the door 
opened and a man entered dressed in blue. He was an 
officer, and glanced searchingly around until his gaze 
lighted on the Red-Headed Boy, who seemed to stare 
indifferently back at him, exactly as did every other 
member of the circle. 

" Evening, friends," said the soldier, " a cool night this." 

" Rather fresh," replied the grocer. 

" How far is it to Nordman's pond ? " 

" 'Bout half a mile." Then, pointing to the boy, the 
grocer added, "This boy lives with Mr. Nordman." 

The cavalryman's quick eye surveyed the room again ; 
his scrutiny was directed successively from face to face ; 
he turned his attention again to the grocer, who, seem- 
ingly oblivious to the inquisition, stood with folded 
arms. 

" Come on, sonny," the soldier said, addressing the 
boy, "show me the way to Nordman's pond; we camp 
there to-night. Good-night, friends." 

The boy followed him, but as he passed old Cupe, the 
negro leaned over, and putting his rubber lips close to 
the suspect's ear whispered : " Yo' bettah look out, yo' 
sly debbil, yo' am spinnin' de fre'ds ob yoah own 
shroud." 

Another rattle of sabres and squeaking of leather, a 
word of command, a tramp of horses' feet, and in a few 
moments the circle of men within the room again sat in 
silence. 

2l6 



CHAPTER XXXV 

THE LOVE SONG OF THE REBEL SOLDIER 

STEPPING from his place behind the door, Cupe, 
evidently anxious to leave the room, addressed Mr. 
Wagner : " An' may de nigger ax, did yo' read dem 
papahs ? " 

"Yes;" said the clerk glancing at the judge. 

" An' hab yo' nuffin t' say ? " 

Again the clerk glanced at the judge, and slowly 
drawled out, "Not now," emphasising the word 
" now." 

"An' yo' may wait too long ef yo' doan look out," 
mumbled the negro. 

Turning to Judge Elford, the slave asked : " An' hab 
yo' anyt'ing t' say t' Cupe, Ma'se Jedge ? " 

"No," said the judge, sharply, "not now ; " and he, 
too, emphasised the word " now." But he did not glance 
at the clerk. 

Bowing, the negro seemed inclined to ask another 
question, but instead stepped back to his place, for at 
that instant there came a second interruption from with- 
out. Sounds of muffled footsteps in the dust before the 
grocery, the gentle squeak of saddle leather, — just suffi- 
cient to indicate to ears familiar with the sound that 
mounted men were cautiously slipping from their horses, 
— and then whispering voices were heard. A face was 
now pressed against the glass panel in the door, and a 
pair of eyes gazed into the room. More than one hand 

217 



Stringtown on the Pike 

sought a side pocket ; the grocer stepped quickly to the 
rear of the store, turned, and in the gloom stood facing 
the door, with a bright object thrown across his arm, — 
an object that glittered in the faint light. 

" Hist ! " he whispered ; " ef et es a raid, we have 
work to do." And then a double tap or rap was struck 
upon the door, a rap that seemed to be understood by 
all, for the grocer dropped his gun and stepped back into 
the light, and each hand was withdrawn from the pocket 
that had so suddenly encased it. The door opened, and 
six Stringtown County men, two of whom were mem- 
bers of the village circle, came into the room. It was 
evident that this body of men was expected by some, if 
not all, of the members present, but the raid (for we 
knew full well the unconcern of the blue-coated soldier 
was assumed) had aroused suspicion. Even Cupe, as 
shown by his secreting the Confederate banner, was one 
of the initiated, and even he accepted that the blue- 
coated soldiers had slipped back, for I heard him mutter, 
" Damn dat Red-Head cuss ! " 

The nail kegs were suddenly inverted, their concealed 
contents were removed and parcelled out to respective 
owners. The coats of the intruders were thrown open 
and the new leather belts were hastily buckled around 
each waist. The grocer produced seven pistols from an 
unseen receptacle, one for each of the six-belted holsters, 
the seventh being laid upon the counter. A blanket roll 
was then taken by each man, who quickly stepped to his 
horse and strapped the roll to the back of the Mexican 
saddle, and then returned to the room ; where, amid a 
series of hand-shakings, in which all joined, the booted 
and newly armed men prepared to make their last fare- 
well to Stringtown friends. But the saddle on which I 
sat, still hidden in the inverted salt barrel, lacked an 

2l8 



Love Song ot the Rebel Soldier 

owner, and one pistol and belt lay unclaimed on the 
counter. A whispered consultation was held by the 
adventurous volunteers, who were preparing for a peril- 
ous attempt to slip through the Federal lines into the 
South to join the Confederate forces. Evidently these 
men expected a companion who had failed to appear, and 
for whom they were restlessly waiting. 

" Comrades, we may never meet around the old stove 
again ; let us have a last song before we start," said one 
of them. " Let it be to our sweethearts. Captain." 

" Oh, yes, I am a Southern girl, and glory in the name, 

I boast of it with greater pride than glittering wealth and fame 5 
I envy not the Northern girl her robes of beauty rare, 
Though diamonds deck her snowy neck and pearls bespread her 
hair. 

" Huzza! huzza! for the Southern girl so fair. 

Huzza! for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear. 

" Our homespun dress is plain, I know, our hats palmetto too, 
But then this shows what Southern girls for Southern rights can 

do. 
We send our sweethearts to the war, but, dear girls, never mind. 
The Southern soldier Ml not forget the girl he left behind. 

" Huzza! huzza! for the Southern girl so fair. 

Huzza! for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear." 

When the song was ended, it was thought unwise to 
linger, but just as they were about to depart, the man 
they were expecting entered. The new-comer was 
Mose the Jew. His face was wreathed in smiles, those 
eternal smiles, and a familiar chuckle he was wont to 
make when pleased greeted the assembly as he lifted the 
saddle and carried it from the room. Returning, he pro- 
ceeded to belt and arm himself as the others had done. 
"The flag — the flag," said the club-footed cavalier, 

219 



Stringtown on the Pike 

*'we must not forget the flag." Old Cupe stepped for- 
ward — not to the man who spoke, but to Mose, to 
whom he handed the rubber-bound parcel. Then he 
turned and addressed the leader : " Bettah yo' go out de 
Mt. Carmel pike an' cut 'roun' de county co'ht-house 
an' git back ter de Stringtown pike by de souf road. 
Steer cl'ar ob de pond ob Ma'se Nordman." 

"Yes," interrupted another, "•a squad of Union cav- 
alry is camping in the pond-field." 

" We know it," was the reply ; " Mose followed them 
beyond the Campbellite Church and has just returned." 

In single file they left the room, Mose bringing up the 
rear, to my amazement accompanied by my chum, the 
grocer's boy, who as he passed handed me the key to his 
box of papers. " Take them," said he, " take them 
home with you, Sammy, pictures, short-hand notes, all; 
if I get back from the war, I'll want them, if not — " 
He faltered, tears sprang to his eyes, he held out his 
hand, which I grasped. Then he turned and ran from 
the room. The occupants of the circle crowded close 
upon the retreating forms, and soon the storeroom was 
deserted. The squad of rebels unhitched their horses, 
quietly mounted them — the grocer's boy springing up 
behind the Jew — and then they turned toward the 
South. Without another word this group of resolute 
men and the chum of my childhood, whom I never saw 
again, started in a brisk trot up the Stringtown pike. 
And I recall now that after the sound of the horses' 
hoofs died away in the distance, we who lingered outside 
the grocery caught the strain of a song from afar that 
seemed almost like an echo. The musical voice of the 
rebel captain came floating to our ears, bearing a couplet 
of the ode he had sung in praise of the Southern girl, the 
verse in which occurred the lines : — 

220 



Love Song of the Rebel Soldier 

" We send our sweethearts to the war, but, dear girls, never mind, 
The Southern soldier '11 not forget the girl he left behind." 

But the love song soon died away, as did the tramp of 
the horses. The bareheaded watchers stood a moment 
in the night air, then re-entered the grocery, the broken 
circle formed again, and each man sat silent, gazing at 
the stove. 

Then occurred a curious thing. The Red-Headed Boy 
of Nordman had returned, and, unperceived by me at 
least, had entered the room with the others, but appar- 
ently without an object, and, after glancing about, he 
quietly started out again. As he passed, Cupe, reaching 
down from his station near the door, caught him by the 
ear and held him fast, whispering a few words as he did 
so. 

Turning to those about the stove, the negro asked 
Judge Elford, " An' hab yo' nuffin fo' suah t' say t' 
Cupe ? " 

«No." 

'• De signs am fulfillin' demsel's monstrous fas'," the 
negro mumbled. " Yo' won't fergit t' count de money 
in de desk an' read de papahs befo' de Co'ht, of yocasion 
'quires ? " 

" I have promised to do so," replied the judge. 

Turning to Mr. Wagner, Cupe asked, " An' did yo' 
read de writin' I lef ' yo' las' night ? " 

" I did." 

" An' caint yo' say nuffin t' Cupe ? " 

" Not now, Cupid." 

With a troubled look, old Cupe, leading the Red- 
Headed Boy by the ear, left the grocery and passed out 
into the starlicrht. 



221 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

" DINAH, CUPE MUS' LEAVE DE CABIN " 

THE time consumed by Cupe and his prisoner in 
reaching the cabin was not sufficient to permit 
them to leisurely walk that distance. They must have 
run part of the way, for in a very short time the cabin 
door was thrown open, and holding the boy firmly the 
negro entered the room. " Brung me de (ox trap an' 
chain, an' de chicken-house lock, an' a strap, de debbil 
am t' pay." 

Dinah obeyed ; Cupe's voice evinced his suppressed 
excitement. Forcing the captive into a rustic chair, they 
bound him securely ; a long strap was wrapped about 
both the chair and the body of the boy, and locked by 
a padlock to two staples that for some other purpose had 
been previously driven into a log behind him. Thus 
the boy sat with his back against the wall ; his arms 
were strapped tightly to his side, but his head, forearms 
and hands were free. Cupe drew the table close to his 
bound victim's knees ; the boy's hands could easily move 
about its surface. A large pan of water containing a 
dipper was placed on the table, a liberal supply of pro- 
visions was thrust alongside it, and after this had been 
done Cupe said : " Yo' am likely t' want fo' comp'ny 
befo' long, yo' East Kaintuck scrub, an' yo' may git 
hungry befo' de comp'ny calls. Dah am grub t' eat an' 
watah t' drink, an' while yo' wait, yo' kin tell yoah story 
t' yoah ma'se, de debbil." The boy's eyes gleamed 
with hatred, but he made no reply. 

222 



'^Cupe mus' leave de Cabin" 

Then the negro turned to Dinah. For once his 
method of addressing her exhibited less of the ruler and 
more of the companion. The affection that had ever 
been a part of his true self, but which was generally 
masked by grufFness, now crept to the surface. He took 
her hand, led her to the fireplace and seated her in a low 
corn-shuck chair on one side of the hearth, himself tak- 
ing a similar chair opposite. 

" Honey," he said slowly and tenderly, " de min' ob 
yoah husban' am runnin' back t'-night — back t' de 
days ob de long ago. Dah hab be'n joy an' sorrah fo' 
de heaht, wa'm an' cole fo' de flesh, Dinah, 'twixt de 
night yo' leP yoah home on Grassy Creek an' now. 
Min' yo' de ole time, Dinah — min' yo' de time when 
Cupe came ridin' dat fust Satuhday night t' de cabin 
doah ? " 

" I min' de time, Cupe." 

" Yo' wah a beauty ob a wench, Dinah, yo' wah de 
flowah ob de Ian'. An' well do Cupe min' dat night, 
too. Befo' he staht fo' de trip dat Satuhday ahftahnoon 
he Stan' befo' ole ma'se an' say : ' Dah am a monstrous 
pritty gearl on Grassy Creek.' An' ole ma'se say : ' De 
fa'dah away de bettah ; et am well she am no closah 
dan Grassy Creek.' An' Cupe ax may he borrah ole 
Prince ? an' ma'se cuss an' damn de wench on Grassy 
Creek, but Cupe doan say nuffin ; an' when ma'se stop 
Cupe jes Stan' still, fo' while de ma'se cuss an' sw'ar' he 
doan say de word no. 

" ' What fo' yo' stan'n' dah fo' ? ' ax ma'se. 

" ' Fo' de loan ob ole Prince t' ride t' Grassy Creek.' 

" ' Yo' kin go,' say ma'se, ' but min' yo' am back by 
foah o'clock Monday mahn'n.' An' es Cupe staht t' 
t'ank him fo' de kindness, ma'se say : ' Shet yoah mouf.* 
An' den Cupe ax : ' What 'bout de pat-a-role ? ' 

223 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" An' ma'se, he take a papah out ob his pocket an* 
write de pass, an' say : ' De pat-a-role '11 gib yoah brack 
back a wa'min' ef yo' ain't home by foah o'clock 
Monday mahn'n.' 

"Min' yo', Dinah, dat Satuhday night ? " 

Dinah bowed her head. 

" An' min' yo' how supple Cupe wah den, Dinah ? " 

Again she nodded. 

" Yoah cabin wah down in de hollah jes back ob 
yoah ma'se's house, Dinah, an' es Cupe ride up t' de 
doah yo' step t' de sill — et wah a monstrous good sign, 
Dinah. Yo' wah stan'n' in de yard befo' de doah, an' 
Cupe pull up de ho'se an' look down an' say a sof 
word, an' yo' smile up in his face. An' Cupe jes git 
down an' stick de switch he hole in his han' in de sof 
earf keerless like — a fool nigger who am in lub ain't 
got no sense — an' he take de bag ob cohn off Prince an' 
Stan' et 'side yoah doah an' lead Prince t' de stable. 

" Min' yo' dat bag ob cohn, Dinah ' " 

A tear ran down the cheek of the old woman. 

" Dah wah a bluebird on a pole in front ob yoah 
cabin, an' a lady bluebird sat in de little doah befo' de 
nes'. Jes den de man bird wid de bright, blue coat an' 
red breast come from out de air an' light by her side ; 
an' Cupe pint t' de cooin' birds an' say : ' Dat sign am 
good.' An' yo' make no ansah, but take Cupe by de 
han' an' lead him into de cabin, an' he sit on one side ob 
de harf, an' yo' sit on de uddah. But we two niggers 
hab no need fo' fiah dat night, Dinah. 

" And when de niggers see dat bag ob cohn stan'n' by 
yoah doah, Dinah, dey pass de word 'roun' ; dah 
wah n't no buck nigger boddah yo' ag'in. Eb'ry 
Satuhday night, when Cupe ax fo' de pat-a-role pass, ole 
ma'se growl, an' den he write Cupe de pass, an' at las' 
dah wah a wed'n'. 224 



u 



Cupe mus' leave de Cabin '* 



" Min' yo' de weepin' willah befo' de doah ? Et wah 
de bad sign ob yoah life, Dinah, an' Cupe wah de cause. 
De switch he stick in de groun' wah a twig ob weepin' 
willah. De nex' time he call on yo' de buds had 
broken ; de nex' time de lebes had sprouted ; de weepin' 
willah-tree wah planted by de han' ob Cupe, an' de 
trouble et brought wah befo' yoah doah, Dinah, an' 
settlin' obah yoah cabin. Cupe could n't say nuffin, but 
he know de ebil spell wah on ; dah am no way t' change 
dat awful willah-tree sign. Et runs fo' fifty yeah, 
Dinah, An' when de fust chile come t' smile on us, de 
pure little blos'm widout any tech ob white — eben de 
sole ob de feet wah not white — yo' wah so happy, 
Dinah, an' proud ob de pure nigger blood in ets brack 
cheek. Den Cupe slip out an' stan' by dat willah slip 
an* pray t' all de gods fo' de sign t' change. But et wah 
no use, Dinah ; de little blos'm grew big 'nuff t' creep t' 
de harf, an' den et close ets eyes an' pass away." 

Dinah sat silent, tear after tear rolling down her cheek. 

" An' 'nuddah chile come, an' grow up t' set in de 
doah, but de shaddah ob de willah fall an' rubs ets life 
out. Foah blos'ms what come t' us on Grassy Creek 
wah blighted by dat ebil willah-tree shaddah ; dah am 
foah grabes 'bout es long es an ax handle, side by side, 
in de ole Grassy Creek grabeyard." 

Dinah rocked back and forth, sighing and moaning. 

"An' den Cupe beg ole ma'se t' buy yo', Dinah, an' 
brung yo' home, an' ma'se say yo' wah a comely nigger, 
an' Grassy Creek wah too far fo' Cupe t' ride ebr'y 
Satuhday ebenin', an' he buy yo' fo' twelve hund'd 
dollahs an' build de cabin fo' yoah nes'. But et wah n't 
no use, de ehil sign go on. 

" Min' yo' de night las' week when Cupe wah gone 
from sundown till mahn'n ? " 
15 225 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Yes." 

" Dinah, he slip back t' de ole cabin. Dah dat deb- 
bilish ole tree stan', ets limbs wavin' in de night air. 
Cupe step t' its side an' cuss et in de moonlight. De 
long fingahs move in de wind an' rub on de head ob de 
nigger, but Cupe had swo' by de chillun what am gone 
t' kill dat tree when de fifty yeah had passed, an' et wah 
fifty yeah when de sugah watah run las' spring. An' he 
took his ax an' chop es nebbah he chopped befo'. De 
chips fly like lebes in wintah, an' de ole tree tuhn t' one 
side an' fall bump on de groun'. Den Cupe scattah 
salt on ets stump an' put his foot on de ole debbil's 
back an' cuss de hoodoo tree." 

Dinah chuckled. 

" Dah hab be'n thirteen blos'ms t' cheer yo', Dinah, 
sense dat switch wah sprouted, an' eb'ry chile es brack 
es Cupe. Yo' hain't had no shame t' bury, Dinah." 

Cupe pointed to the hearthstone between them. 

" Dinah," he asked, "min' yo' de fac' dat nebbah hab 
two chillun sat side by side on de great stone ? An' 
now yoah head am white, yoah face am wrinkled, yoah 
han' am skinny an' yoah toof am yallah. Dah am 
thirteen little grabes — foah on Grassy Creek an' nine 
b'hin' dis cabin. Et am a hoodoo numbah, but now de 
ebil spell am obah. De willah-tree am dead. De 
missus an' all de ole fren's am sleepin' quiet ; de wicked 
ole ma'se am walkin' — he only am movin' ob all de 
fo'ks yo' knew when yoah cheek wah plump, yoah toof 
white an' yoah skin shiny." 

Dinah was sobbing softly, and Cupe fell upon his 
knees on the spot upon the hearth to which he had 
pointed, and took her hands between his rough palms, 
lovingly stroking the bony fingers. 

" Dinah, t'-night Cupe mus' lebe de ole cabin. De 
226 



ii 



Cupe mus' leave de Cabin'' 



signs am all fulfilled, de fifty yeah ob pain am passed, 
an' we two niggers am free from de willah-tree spell. 
De Susie chile only am lef t' pint back t' de sacred 
promise, an' t' sabe dat chile, an' lib up t' de promise we 
made de young ma'se, Cupe mus' lebe de ole home." 

He took from his tattered pocketbook a paper that, 
although he could not read, he evidently fully compre- 
hended, and held it out to his wife : " Yo' may stay in 
de cabin, Dinah, ef yo' wants t' stay, an' when de 
mahn'n comes ef yo '11 take dis papah t' Ma'se Elford, 
yo '11 git yoah freedom an' kin go back t' yoah ole home 
on Grassy Creek, de cabin wah' yo' stood in de doah 
when Cupe ride up fifty yeah ago." 

^' An' ef I doan take de papah ? " 

" Pack yoah duds an' bid farewell t' de Ian' ob yoah 
birf, fo' when t'-morrah sun rise Cupe an' Susie '11 be 
down in de Licking Hills wid dere faces tu'ned to'ard de 
cole Canerdy Ian'." 

Again he held out the paper. " Dinah, will yo' go 
back t' de ole cabin on Grassy Creek, er will yo' walk 
into de night wid Cupe ? " 

The woman pushed back the paper and repeated the 
vow made twice before : " De Canerdy Ian' am cole 
an' de grabes ob de missus an' de chillun am deah, in 
ole Kaintuck, but fo' de good ob de Susie chile an' de 
lub ob ole Cupe, Dinah '11 close de cabin doah ferebah." 



22/ 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

RED-HEAD, CAPTIVE 

IT was needless for them to consult concerning the 
next step. Their conversation had often been of 
such a nature as to prepare both for the course they 
must pursue in case it became desirable to "run away." 
Rapidly they moved about the' rough room, selecting the 
various articles of clothing or the utensils that might 
prove of use in their wanderings. They recognised that 
little could be carried, and consequently few household 
articles aside from the provisions were disturbed. The 
only exception to this exacting rule proved to be the 
garments of Susie, for these were all neatly packed by 
Dinah in an oilcloth sack, the mouth of which was 
closed with a draw-string. 

The captive boy sat silent, closely watching the busy 
pair, who, upon the contrary, seemed to give him no 
attention. In a short time the hasty preparation was 
made, the slaves were ready to start for Canada, one 
with a basket, the other with a bag. Then Cupe turned 
to the boy, and standing before him said abruptly : 

" Yo' am a debbil from the mount'ns, yo' Red-Head 
cuss, an' hab no place 'mong civil fo'k. Why doan yo' 
go back t' yoah pap ? " 

" Can't, yo' old nigger," the boy answered insolently, 

" Wha' am yoah pap ? " 

« Dead." 

228 



Red-Head, Captive 

" Yo' bettah go back t' yoah ma when yo' git loose." 

« Dead." 

The negro's heart gave signs of relenting. In a more 
kindly voice he said : 

" Hab yo' no bruddahs ? " 

" One." 

"Yo' bettah go t' yoah bruddah." 

The boy shook his head. 

" Am dah a reason why yo' doan go ? " 

"Yes." 

" What am de cause ? " 

"Dead." 

The old man started unconsciously; then he lowered 
his voice : 

" An' hab yo' no sisterin, chile ? " 

" Yes." 

*' How many sisterin ? " 

"One." 

" Caint yo' go an' lib wid de gearl ? " 

Tears moistened the eyes of the captive boy ; he 
shook his head. 

" Ef Cupe '11 unlock de chain an' open de doah will 
yo' go back t' de mount'n gearl ? " 

Again the boy shook his head. 

" Tole us de reason, chile;" and automatically the 
slave arranged the provisions on the table more con- 
veniently, " Tole us de reason, chile." 

" Dead." 

The man stood a moment in silence. 

" An' hab yo' no uddah kin but Ma'se Nordman ? " 

" No other." 

*' Et am a shame, et am a sin an' a shame." 

" What ? " 

" Dat yo' hab come t' Stringtown. But yo' caint help 
229 



Stringtown on the Pike 

et, yo' am mixed in de sign ; " then, suddenly, with the 
word " sign " the negro changed his manner of expres- 
sion. That word brought back to his mind the fact that 
the boy was destined to work evil according to the 
" sign." The superstitious old man forgot the former 
softened voice ; no touch of pity was left in his heart ; 
his tone grew harsh again : " Yo' cub ob Satin, an' et 
wah good fo' de libin' an' no hahm t' de dead ef yo' wah 
dead too ; " and he turned away. 

A vicious look came over the boy's face, he clenched 
his hand, and tried to shake his fist at the speaker. 
Neither spoke again. Susie, ready dressed — for the 
child had not been disrobed that night — was taken from 
her bed, wrapped in a woollen shawl, and, still asleep, 
was gently clasped in the arms of the man ; her head 
rested on one shoulder, while the bag of clothing de- 
pended by a strap from the other. 

Dinah, bearing the provisions, as if determined to 
make good her thrice-told promise, opened the cabin 
door, stepped outside, and stood ready to close it. But 
just then Cupe, who, too, had reached the door, cried, 
" Come back, Dinah ; dah am a fren' t' go wid us, 
an' a fren' t' say good-bye." 

He laid the sleeping child on the bed, and stepping to 
the hearth, raised one of the flat stones, taking from be- 
neath it three large kidney-shaped beans, each at least 
an inch in diameter. These he put into his pocket, 
addressing them as he did so : — 

" Ef de time ebah comes t' act, yo' kin do yoah work ; 
but yoah mouf hab be'n long shet sense yo' grew in de 
hot Guinee Ian'. An' now fo' de las' word from de 
oldest fren' ob all." 

He took his fiddle from the peg and raised it to his 
shoulder; his eyes closed, his chin dropped until it 

230 



Red-Head, Captive 

touched the instrument, and then his expert fingers 
touched the strings. 

Plaintive was the melody wafted into the air as the 
unlettered musician drew the bow. From his warm 
heart came the pathetic touch that vibrated the strings 
until they fairly spoke. He played only one air : — 

" We'll hunt no moah fo' de 'possum an' de coon. 
On de meddah, de hill, an' de shoah. 
We '11 sing no moah by de glimmah ob de moon, 
On de bench by de ole cabin doah. 

" De days go by like de shaddah on de heaht, 
Wid sorrah wha' all wah so bright, 
De time am come when de darkeys hab t' part, 
Den my ole Kentucky home, good-night." 

When the last note died away, the child was taken up 
again, and at last the door closed behind the fugitives. 

But now Dinah stopped. She lingered with bowed 
head before the home she had deserted. Tears coursed 
down her wrinkled cheeks, while Cupe, equally affected, 
but too stoical to exhibit his emotion, stood by her side. 
The old woman raised her hand and, pointing to the 
door, her finger nearly touching it, huskily asked : 

" Min' yo' de sign ob defF, Cupe ? " 

"What sign ob defF? Dah am many signs ob 
deff?" 

" De Bloody Hollah sign. Doan yo' see et am come 
true ? De Red-Head Boy am all alone in de cabin^ he am 
sittin'' in de cheer ob Susie." 



231 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

RETURN OF THE REFUGEES 

IN the autumn of 1868, several years later, two negroes 
accompanied by a girl about eight years of age, 
passed down the west side of Vine Street, Cincinnati. 

They approached the Ohio River bank, and then 
stood gazing intently on the Kentucky shore. Not a 
word had been spoken since they first caught sight of the 
opposite bank of the river. Their quaint attire and 
strange bearing led a party of impudent wharf children 
to collect about them. Neither of the negroes who 
gazed so intently across the river noticed the group of 
urchins that was rapidly increasing in number, but the 
child, withdrawing her gaze from other objects, turned 
her eyes first at one and then at another of the encircling 
party, who insolently stared back again. At this point 
the carpet-bag in the hand of the old man was loosened ; 
it fell upon the bouldered street and rolled upon its side, 
resting partly on his large feet. But he did not seem to 
feel its weight. Raising his arm, he pointed to the green 
Kentucky hills in the distance, but did not speak. A 
tear rolled down the cheek of his companion, the old 
woman, for it needed but this action to cause her to give 
way to suppressed emotion. She, too, dropped her 
satchel and clasped her hands, extending them toward 
the hills that rose beyond the city. A howl of derision 
now came from the throats of the circle of children, and 
a mischievous boy suddenly jumped forward and grabbed 

232 



Return of the Refugees 

the fallen sack. The girl snatched her hands from the 
grasp of the negroes, sprang upon the bent form of the 
rude meddler, threw her wiry arms about his neck, and, 
with a display of unexpected strength, threw him to the 
ground. The incident broke the reverie of the negroes, 
who, moving with greater suppleness than seemed pos- 
sible to persons so aged, resumed possession of both the 
girl and the bag and retraced their steps to Second Street, 
turned to the right, and sought the entrance to the great 
new suspension bridge. 

An hour afterward they slowly passed along Lexington 
Pike in the outskirts of Covington, and subsequently 
tramped up the long two-and-a-half-mile hill beyond the 
city limits. They were very tired, and frequently 
stopped to rest on the grassy roadside, when the child 
would bury her head in the lap of the negress, and that 
she closed her eyes in sleep was evident from the effort 
it required to arouse her. At last the party passed over 
the crest of the hill where stood the toll-gate, and then 
they moved down into the evening shadows that now 
closed rapidly about the winding road, which soon sank 
into a ravine, and then crept deeper still in order to de- 
scend by easy grade into the valley that must soon be 
crossed. To the left, one behind the other, on the slope 
of the opposite hill, could be seen ridges of earth that 
even in the shadows were yellow. Behind these stretched 
trenches deep enough to shelter armed men ; once they 
were rifle-pits, and in 1862 commanded the pike; they 
overlooked it in 1868, and, nearly obliterated by time, 
they border it now. But unless the eight graves dug in 
1862 near the crest of that hill are yet inviolate, no sol- 
dier. Blue or Grey, holds these silent redoubts. On be- 
yond the trenches into deeper shadows plodded the three 
wanderers ; the road curves, the rifle-pits and the dark 

233 



Stringtown on the Pike 

ravine are now in the rear. Looming high on the hill 
to the right appears at this point old Fort Mitchell, as 
silent as are the abandoned yellow trenches ironically 
standing guard over the peaceful valley. But the aban- 
doned fort disappears too behind the wearied travellers, 
who now pass into the broad valley, still treading the 
pike. Thickets on either side spring from stumps 
where, in order to give free range for cannon and mus- 
ket, all the trees were felled in 1862. But the war is 
over. A flock of sheep is resting where once stood a 
battery of brass field-guns. Fences burned for camp- 
fires have been replaced by new ones ; no scattered 
cracker boxes, no broken army wagons, no limping 
mules, no mark of tent or of camp litter remain in the 
grassy fields bordering the road where a few years pre- 
viously tens of thousands of armed men had bivouacked. 
Gone are all these, — the glittering guns, the caissons 
and cannon, the army, and the tramping sentry. 

The travellers moved more slowly, the white pike 
turned grey in the deepening twilight, the grass-grown 
fields changed to black, and the foliage beside the pike 
lost its colour. Dusk turned to night. From a pond 
across the valley came the cries of frogs, some deep and 
guttural, others shrill, and yet others, unlike either croak 
or chirp, appeared to sound in harmony with the com- 
plaint uttered by the sombre rain-crow. From a clump 
of bushes nearby a rabbit leaped into the dust of the 
pike. The man dropped his sack, grasped the arm of the 
woman tremblingly, and the human figures stood gazing 
at the tiny form at their feet. The wondering rabbit 
stayed but a moment, then swiftly sped across the road, 
and disappeared in the weeds. 

Without a word, the pilgrims turned and retraced their 
steps, dragging their coarse shoes wearily in the deep 

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Return of the Refugees 

dust of the pike back to the silent fort that could no 
longer be seen in the darkness. As they entered the 
shades of the gloomy hollow the cry of a hoot-owl broke 
upon the air; coming from a shrub within the solitary 
fort, now on their left ; then, from a dead beech-tree 
that rises above the graves of the soldiers behind the 
rifle-pits on the crest of the other hill, sounded the 
answering cry of the old owl's mate. The woman 
touched the man on his left shoulder, and he turned to 
catch sight of the tiny crescent moon shining through 
the limbs of a dead shrub. Again the old woman 
touched his shoulder, his left shoulder, and pointed to 
the brush-screened new moon. 

That night the travellers rested with a negro friend 
who lived in Rat Row, and the next morning turned 
their footsteps down the Ohio River. They tramped 
along the shore by easy journey, stopping often to rest, 
never at a loss for lodging places, until they reached a 
point opposite Carrollton, where they called the ferry- 
man and crossed the river. From this point they struck 
back into Kentucky, following the road that parallels 
the beautiful and picturesque Kentucky River until 
Carrollton was left far in the rear. Then they struck 
into the hills and moved in the direction of Stringtown. 
" Et wah a long way ' roun '," said Cupe, " but de 
rabbet knows ets bisness. De longes' way 'roun' am 
de safes' way home ef de rabbet cross de paiF." 



235 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

cupe's plea for Susie's name 

ON a knoll back from the road stood a colonial 
mansion, an hour's ride from Stringtown. Before 
it stretched a woodland pasture that gently sloped from 
the house. Great sugar-maple and venerable walnut 
trees shaded this spacious lawn, which was artistically 
ornamented by clumps of yucca and groups of cedar, 
pine, and juniper trees. A picturesque drive led from 
the door of the mansion, down the slopes, through the 
grounds to the front gate. A dense osage orange hedge 
bordered the opposite side of the road. 

In an easy-chair on the porch of the house sat a grey- 
haired man ; a party of merry, young people was pre- 
paring to enter a large carryall that stood on the drive 
before the porch. Two of the pleasure seekers — young 
girls — kissed the man and said : " Farewell until morn- 
ing, papa ! " Then the party drove down the avenue 
on to the public road and disappeared from sight. The 
man on the porch in the shade of the trees leaned back 
in his easy-chair and watched the sun go down ; gently 
rocking, he pufFed a cigar, the curling smoke of which 
could be seen by one with good eves from the distant 
Iredge bordering the street and extending opposite the 
mouth of the avenue that led to the house. Three 
faces, two of them black, the other white, peered through 
the hedge commanding a full view of the solitary figure 
on the porch. Twilight deepened, and from the log 

236 



Cupe's Plea for Susie's Name 

cabins behind the house came another vehicle, a spring 
wagon, laden with negroes dressed in gay-coloured, holi- 
day attire. The three figures drew back at their ap- 
proach and concealed themselves behind the thick part 
of the hedge. 

The wagon passed down the avenue, turned out into 
the road and disappeared in the direction of Stringtown. 
The man on the porch, the sole occupant of the 
deserted house, unconscious of their watchful eyes, pufFed 
his cigar. 

Evening drew near ; the dew and the shadows of 
night fell together. The man threw the stump of his 
cigar into the lawn, entered the house, lighted a lamp 
and without drawing the curtain seated himself at a 
table and began to read an historical record of Kentucky. 
Thus he sat alone until deep darkness brooded over all 
things without the house. 

Unrest tormented him. Dropping the book and 
lighting a cigar, the uneasy watcher threw his feet upon 
the arm of a tall chair, dropped his head upon the back 
of the rocker, faced the window and gently puffed his 
cigar. With lips pursed together, he threw a thread of 
white smoke into the room and dreamily gazed upon it 
with half-closed eyes. The deep blue that curled up- 
ward from the tip of his cigar contrasted sharply with 
this vapour-mixed cloud. The circle of smoke sped to 
the ceiling and shattered itself against a projecting 
decoration. Another ring, moving like creeping cotton, 
followed the first; trembling, weaving, seemingly un- 
decided as to whether it should move up or down, the 
phantom balanced itself in the air, then collapsed and 
disappeared. A third followed the second ; softer, 
whiter, more perfect than the others, it moved upward 
more gracefully. The thin thread of blue from the tip 

237 



Stringtown on the Pike 

of the cigar between the forefinger and thumb of the 
nicotine dreamer followed this retreating circle; it thrust 
itself into the centre of the vortex ring, then lapped ovei 
it, and before the combination burst spread as a revolv- 
ing sheath from above its upper edge. 

Into the stillness and the silence passed another fairy 
ring ; a feather's touch would have crushed it, an up- 
starting puff of air would have been fatal. Slowly this 
fifth wreath moved upward ; drawing the blue thread 
from the cigar's tip into its depths, it balanced itself 
exactly in the torpid air, and then, just before collapsing, 
the man who faced it saw from the inner circle, where 
blue and white mingled, a pair of eyes, blue eyes, spring 
into existence and gaze down into his own. 

The hand that held the cigar dropped, but the man 
was unconscious of the movement ; his mind turned 
from the picture above to a scene of other years, when a 
pair of living eyes, eyes exactly like these, gazed be- 
seechingly into his own. These phantom orbs from out 
the burst fairy wreath had reflected a glimpse of other 
days. Then his glance dropped to the night-black win- 
dow ; there, set in a face of darkness quite different 
from the blackness about it, hung two white eyes that 
gazed in upon him who dreamed as waking men some- 
times dream. The startled watcher turned back to the 
sun-white wreath above ; it had vanished. He dropped 
his glance to the black face in the window ; the eyes 
were gone. Not a word did he utter, but grasping the 
decanter by his side, turned it up and drank deeply of the 
amber liquid ; then, as if to test the correctness of his 
senses or to face the spell that bound him, threw his 
head back, gazed intently upward, puffed at the cigar, 
and a wreath softer than a cobweb and as white as snow 
sprang into existence. Floating in space as only vortex 

238 



Cupe's Plea for Susie's Name 

rings can float, enlarging, drawing from above and 
below, from without and within, growing larger and 
softer and purer as it expanded, this thing of beauty, 
alive to the sight, but dead to the touch, expanded to 
the size of a child's face ; then from out its depths a 
portrait from the past sprang again into life, a child's 
face, a baby face with great, beseeching eyes. Startled 
as he had never been before, the man shrank, dropped 
his cigar upon the carpet, and his gaze fell again to the 
window ; there, close against the glass, gazing in upon 
him intently, as had the wreath-face from above, peered 
beseeching eyes like those he had just seen. That same 
face looked upon him from out the night; brightened by 
the lamplight, set in the frame of blackness, this implor- 
ing face was older, sadder, yet identical with that mind 
picture framed by the fairy wreath. 

Springing from his place, the man threw the door 
wide open ; for a time the darkness blinded him, and even 
when he pierced the depths nothing was to be seen but 
the streaming light that from the window marked its way 
across the drive and into the clump of trees beyond. 

He slammed the door, turned the key, sprang to the 
window and pulled down the Venetian blind. The 
slatted shade fell to its place almost with the turn of the 
key, so rapidly did he move, but simultaneously with its 
rustle a heavy knock sounded on the door, a knock that 
made the silent house echo. Notwithstanding the expe- 
riences through which he had just passed, without any 
hesitation whatever the man turned the key and again 
threw open the door. A flood of light streamed across 
the porch, showing three figures, one a child that stood 
in front of the open way. They entered without invita- 
tion and the host blurted out angrily : " What the devil 
do you want ? " 

239 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" An' hab yo' fo'got de ole man, Ma'se ? " 

" What ! Cupe and Dinah." 

" An' Susie, Ma'se, an' Susie." 

« Who is Susie ? " 

" Doan yo' know de chile ? " 

" No ; an' I don't care to know her. When did you 
get back, Cupe ? " 

" Look at de honey gearl," said the negro, ignoring 
the question. " Look at de chile ag'in, Ma'se." 

Something in the tone of the old negro startled the 
owner of the house. He put his finger under the chin 
of the child, turned her face up to the light and gazed 
down into her wondering eyes. The eyes in the smoke 
wreath were on him again, the face in the window was 
now a face in the room. A twinge of pain that did not 
escape the quick eye of Cupe passed over his counte- 
nance ; memory served the man truly, and in a flash he 
saw a child in the arms of a beseeching woman. And 
he remembered, too, that together mother and child had 
passed out into the night, out of his sight, out of his 
life. 

" No, Cupe, I do not know her," he said, and turned 
to the negro. '■'■ Now answer my question. When did 
you get back ? " 

Again the negro drew the attention of the man to the 
girl. " Doan yo' 'lect de muddah ob de chile ? " 

"No; and I care nothing for either the child or its 
mother. What brings you here to-night ? " 

Glancing about the room, the negro caught sight of a 
hand-mirror, left on the table by one of the young ladies. 
Picking it up, he handed it to the man. " Look into de 
glass, Ma'se ; see de eyes dat look back in yoah face an' 
den look at de eyes ob de chile." 

A flush spread over Mr. Manley's face ; he raised his 
240 



Cupe's Plea for Susie's Name 

clenched fist, but the negro making no motion to evade 
the blow, said in a low, respectful tone : 

" ' Deed, Ma'se, Cupe doan mean no disrespec'. 
Look at de eyes ob de chile, an' look in de glass an' den 
look at de face ob de chile an' t'ink ob de woman vo' 
lubbed in York State, an' who follud yo' back t' Kain- 
tuck. She tramped out into de night, a lone woman, 
wid yoah chile in her arms, from dis same room." 

The hand of the man trembled ; he dropped the 
glass and sank into a chair. The negro closed the door 
and locked it, gazing constantly at the man, who for a 
moment made no effort to renew the conversation. 
" Ole Sukey," continued Cupe, " who buy her freedom, 
saw yo' in Sah'toga wid de muddah ob de chile. She 
wah bright an' pritty, an' de smile wah on her face." 

Manley's anger blazed out. " Cupe Hardman, when 
morning comes your back will answer for this night's 
work. Out of my house, you impudent vagabonds. Back 
to Canada, back with that brat, or by God I '11 — " 

The negro sank upon his knees and held up his hands. 
" Cupe an' Dinah raised yo', Ma'se, on de ole Hardman 
fa'm. Dey lub yo' now es ef yo' wah dah own chile. 
Min' yo' not de story ob yoah life ? Lis'n t' Cupe befo' 
yo' dribe dis little chile 'way. Yoah mudder an' yoah. 
pap once libbed in Stringtown ; dey wah poo' people, 
Ma'se, an' yo' wah a wee babe. Den de sickness came 
to yoah house an' den deff. Bof yoah muddah an' yoah 
pap wah carried t' de grabeyard. An' den ole ma'se say : 
*■ Dinah, kin yo' raise de orfin Stringtown chile ? ' an' 
Dinah say : ' Es easy t' raise two chillun es one.' An' 
ma'se brung yo' home nex' day, a little boy wid gieat 
eyes — no uddah chile but yoah own kin hab sech 
eyes — "and Cupe glanced at Susie. "An' yo' grew 
up 'long wid de chile I lub so well, de boy whose mud- 
i6 241 



Stringtown on the Pike 

dah die long 'go. But dah wah no use tryin', yo' two 
boys wah cross-grained an' tough, yo' fight an' bite an' 
raise de debbil, an' at las' sep'rate — yo' know why. 
De fa'm wah not big nufF fo' bof ob yo'. Ef ebah yo' 
had stepped foot on de ole place ahftah de las' act yo' did, 
Ma'se Hardman 'ud hab killed yo' suah. But he keep 
his mouf to hisse'f fo' de honah ob de fam'ly. Ma'se 
Hardman gib yo' dis fa'm when yo' tuhn 'way ; de Ian' 
wah rich an' yo' wah smaht ; et am a biggah fa'm now. 
Yo' am a fine gem'n an' a rich man, Ma'se." 

" Well, but why are you here, Cupe ? " said Mr. 
Manley. " Why are you here to-night ? Do you want 
help, money ? " 

The negro shook his head. 

" What is it, Cupe ? " 

Pointing to the child, the black, still kneeling, said : 
" Look at de Susie chile, doan look at Cupe." 

" I have never seen the girl before, Cupe ; I swear by 
the Lord — " 

Cupe held up his hand : " Doan sw'ar' et out, Ma'se." 
Then he added : " She hab no muddah." 

"Well." 

" She needs a faddah." 

The man raised his fist, but Cupe again held out his 
defenceless hand. "She needs de name.'" 

" What damned scheme is this ? Nigger Cupe, by 
God I '11 stretch your neck on the old elm in the back 
pasture sure as Heaven lets me live till morning. Out, 
out of the room ! When daylight comes the hounds 
will be on your track." 

No movement was made by the kneeling negro ; with 
upstretched hands, uncovered head, he looked beseech- 
ingly upward. Down the cheeks of his wrinkled face a 
tear trickled. 

242 



Cupe's Plea for Susie's Name 

" You shall be thrashed until your back is bloody as 
sure as the Lord — " 

He was again interrupted by the kneeling black, who 
held up his hand, the palm exposed. " See yo' de scar 
in de han' ob Cupe ? " 

" What is that to me ? " 

" Dah am no feah fo' de flesh in de heaht ob de man 
who b'lebes in de sign. Save de honah ob yoah own 
chile, Ma'se, an' den cut de back ob de nigger." 

" I care nothing for your signs. Go ! " 

" Gib de Susie chile her name," pleaded the negro ; 
*' the yinnecent gearl hab asked, ' Am I only nigger 
Susie ? ' Lis'n, Ma'se Manley, please lis'n. In de cole 
Canerdy Ian' Susie libed wid Cupe an' Dinah, who take 
her out ob Kaintuck. De yeahs come an' go, an' et 
wah cole near 'bout all de time. Cupe work in de day 
an' Dinah stay wid Susie, an' no ha'm come t' any ob 
dem — but et wah not like libin' in de ole cabin in Kain- 
tuck. Cupe come home one night, an' Dinah say : 
' Susie ax a quistion t'-day.' ' An' yo' ansah et, Dinah ? ' 
'No.' 'What wah de quistion?' ' She say, " In de 
school I sit in de seat wid Mary Jones, an' in de uddah 
seat sit An'e Moo'e, an' in de nex' seat sit Lucy SmifF." 
" E'zac'ly." I ansah. ' An' den I tu'n de subject by 
sayin' : " De teachah am a kind man ef he do weah a 
coa'se, woman-like dress an' a string ob beads." She 
say : " Yes ; but he ax my name ag'in, an' I tole him, 
' Susie.' ' Susie what ? ' ' Jes Susie.' An' den he say : 
' Tole de fo'ks yo' lib wid t' sen' de uddah name t'-mor- 
rah, an' tole 'em I '11 call t' see 'em soon.' Am I only 
Susie, Aunt Dinah ? " she ax, an' a tear come into her 
eye.' 

" ' Dinah,' say Cupe, ' Dinah, when de mahn'n comes 
back we '11 start t' ole Kaintuck, back fo' de name ob de 

243 



Stringtown on the Pike 

chile.' An' heah we am, Ma'se Manley. Dah am 
nuffin moah' t' say." 

No reply was made by the man, but his anger seemed 
to have been somewhat soothed. 

After an interval Cupe continued : " Dah wah bad 
signs on de way back an' dah hab be'n ebil omen sense 
de good ole Ian' wah reached, but heah de chile am at 
las' in de home ob her pap. Look up, Susie." 

The child raised her face, and gazed into that of the 
white man. 

"She doan ax fo' money, she doan ax fo' Ian', cr 
dresses, er rings. She doan ax fo' nuffin money kin 
brung, er fo' what doan b'long t' her; de yinnecent 
chile ax fo' de name she am 'titled to an' ax et ob de 
big, rich man who tu'ned a lone baby out into de worl' 
outen a name. De debbil nebbah did nuffin wussah." 

" You insulting scoundrel — " 

" Cupe an' Dinah lub de gearl an' lub de Ian' ob 
Kaintuck bettah dan all de worl' b'side. But fo' de 
good ob de chile, ef yo' '11 take her into de house an' 
open yoah heaht t' de yinnecent orfin, an' gib her de 
name she need an' yo' owe t' her, we two ole niggers '11 
tu'n back to de cole Canerdy Ian' an' nebbah look on 
her face ag'in. Please, Ma'se Manley, an' de Lawd '11 
bress yo' in de day ob jubilee." 

Mr. Manley pointed to the door. 

" Fo' de lub ob yoah chile, yoah own chile, Ma'se .? " 

Still he pointed to the door. " Go ! " 

The old man arose. Dinah for the first time moved 
to the front ; she stood to the right of Mr, Manley, 
Cupe to his left. 

" Will yo' damn yoah own chile by stealin' her name 
'way ? Bettah steal her money er cut her froat." 

Mr. Manley raised his clenched fist. " Dog of a 
244 



Cupe's Plea for Susie's Name 

nigger, you lie, you lie ! " The negroes sprang forward 
simultaneously. Cupe wrapped his long arms around 
Manley, holding him tightly. Dinah jerked forth a 
strong strap, and before the prisoner realised what they 
were about lashed his ankles together, while with another 
strap she bound his arms close to his side. The move- 
ments of the actors were unexpected, the strength dis- 
played was unlooked for, the expertness with which they 
did their work amazing. The prisoner became a pris- 
oner without realising the fact until he was bound, and 
then he instantly regained his natural calmness. 

" You '11 be flogged in the morning until your back 
is raw, Cupe," he quietly said. 

But Cupe before replying set the helpless man in his 
easy-chair, then said : " De lash am not so painful es 
de brand ob de fiah. Cupe kin stan' dem bof. Ma'se, 
de Lawd knows Cupe lubs yo' yit, but he lubs de Susie 
gearl moah. Yo' hab done wrong t' yo'selb, Ma'se, an' 
yo' hab done wrong t' Susie, yoah own chile." 

" I have not, Cupe. The Lord knows — " 

Cupe again interrupted him. 

"■ Two times befo' yo' call on de Lawd. Do yo' 
wan' t' lebe de mattah ob de trufF ob yoah words t' 
de Lawd ? " 

" The Lord witness that I have had no part in 
wronging that child." 

" De Lawd mus' be de witness; yo' .hab called de 
'zact numbah ob times on de one who kin prube de 
right. De Lawd shall be de jedge." Then slowly, 
earnestly, as if uttering a sacred command, he said : 

" Brung de o'deal bean, Dinah, brung bof de o'deal 
bean." 



245 



CHAPTER XL 

THE FEARFUL AFRICAN ORDEAL TEST 

SOMETHING in the tone of the old man startled 
the prisoner. A chill crept over him. Brought 
up as he had been with the negroes, he realised that 
unless the intruders had been reckless of personal danger 
or sure of the success of their undertaking they would 
not have been so rash as to commit such an outrage on 
a Kentucky gentleman. It might mean death to them. 

For the first time in his life Mr. Manley felt the 
sensation of fear. Too well did he realise the extent to 
which a fanatical fatalist, such as he knew Cupe to be, 
would carry his measures, did he believe it a duty im- 
posed by supernatural power. 

" De bean, Dinah, gib me de bean." 

Unbuttoning the bosom of her dress, the woman 
drew forth a leather bag. Cupe opened it by means 
of a draw-string and poured into his palm three kidney- 
shaped beans, each about half an inch in diameter and 
two inches long, which he held before the prisoner. 

" Ma'se, ef Cupe had be'n bohn in de hot Afriky Ian' 
he 'd hab be'n a king. Dis is de bean my gran'dad. 
King ob de Gol'coas' ob Afriky, brought t' America. 
Et wah raised on a sacred vine dat only kings might 
grow. No uddah man wah 'lowed t' touch de precious 
bean." He reverently raised one of the nuts between 
the tip of his forefinger and his thumb ; " Et am de 
sacred ordeal nut" he said in an undertone. 

246 



The Fearful African Ordeal Test 

" Et kin tole ef a man am lyin'. Ef a man am 
s'pected ob killin' anuddah man de o'deal nut kin prube 
de fac'. Ef a man am s'pected ob hoodoo work, de o'deal 
bean kin show ef he be a hoodoo man. De woman 
what act de witch kin fool de doctah an' her husban', 
but she kin not fool de o'deal bean. De o'deal bean am 
God's bean, an' only de son ob a king kin make de o'deal 
test. Cupe am de son ob a king." ^ 

"God Almighty, Cupe," cried Manley, "you are 
carrying your superstition too far ! " 

" De Lawd am goin' t' prube ef yo' hab be'n tellin' 
de truff 'bout de Susie chile." 

"That devilish bean has no power; it is senseless." 

" De o'deal nut kin do no ha'm to de yinnecent, but 
et am suah defFt' de guilty man. Yo, need hab no feah 
ef yo' hab tole de trufF, but de man who take de o'deal 
test had bettah say his prayers ef de lie am on his lips." 
He turned to the woman : " Make de drink, Dinah ; " 
and Cupe handed her one of the beans. 



1 This is according to the custom of the natives at the mouth of the 
Calabar river, Africa. But instead of a painless death the suspected 
person (or rather, victim) always perished miserably, suffering most 
intensely. In this connection the following by W. F. Daniell, Esq. 
On the N'atives of Old Calabar, in the Edinburgh New Philosophical 
Journal, Vol. 40, 1846, pp. 313-327 (p. 318), is of interest: "The 
Government of the Old Calabar towns is a monarchical despotism 
rather mild in its general character, although sometimes severe and 
absolute in its details. The King and chief inhabitants ordinarily 
constitute a court of justice, in which all country disputes are ad- 
justed, and to which every prisoner suspected of capital offences is 
brought, to undergo examination and judgment. If found guilty, 
they are usually forced to swallow a deadly poison, made from the 
poisonous seeds of an aquatic leguminous plant, which rapidly des- 
troys life. This poison is obtained by pounding the seeds and macerat- 
ing them in water, which acquires a white milky colour." To the 
above it may be added that this " Ordeal Test " was applied also to 
persons who displeased the ruler and who consequently made this 
a means to an end. 

247 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Dinah had often been called to assist in the mansion 
during parties and celebrations given in other days. 
Straight to the kitchen she went, crushed the bean and 
pounded it into meal. Then she poured cold water 
over the powder, set the pan on the wood embers still 
glowing in the stove, stirred its contents slowly and 
watched the liquid until it simmered. During the 
period she mumbled strange words, made curious passes 
and motions with her hands, over the decoction, and 
once with her husky voice she sang a weird air such as 
no civilised musician ever cast into notes. At last the 
task was done. Cooling the decoction by holding the 
pan in cold water, she poured the potion into a tumbler, 
artfully decanting it from the dregs and carried the tea to 
Cupe, who sat facing the helpless man. 

The little girl in the meantime had fallen asleep and 
rested on the sofa, but now her eyes were wide open. 

" Ma'se Manley," said Cupe, taking the glass in his 
hand, " et es wid sorrah dat Cupe, who lubs yo' so 
deahly, feels de 'cessity ob honorin' yo' on dis yocasion. 
But yo' make him do et ; free times an' one extra yo' 
call de Lawd t' witness de fac' yo' swo' to. De word 
ob a fine gem'n am great, but de powah ob de o'deal 
bean am greatah. Yo' may drink t' de glory ob de 
Lawd." He held the cup to the ashen lips of the 
man, who made no movement. 

" Drink de o'deal tea, an' ef yo' hab tole de truff yoah 
res' 'II be sweet an' yoah wakin' pleasant." 

"You black scoundrel ! " answered the helpless man ; 
"you fanatical lunatic! I won't swallow a drop." 

" Yo' call' on de Lawd an' yo' mus' drink t' de Lawd. 
Et pains Cupe t' 'blige yo' t' op'n yoah lips, but he hab 
drenched ho'ses an' mules, an' kin drench a man. Drink, 
er Cupe 'II poah de sacred tea down yoah froat." 

248 



The Fearful African Ordeal Test 

" Cupe, do you want to murder me ? Dinah, when 
I was a chiM you held me on your knee, you have told 
me stories by the cabin fire, you have dressed me in the 
morning, watched over me during the day, and put me 
into bed at night. Dinah, am I not the orphan child 
you raised ? " 

" Cupe am de son ob a king." 

" Dinah, I gave you money to buy tombstones for 
your children." 

" De sacred o'deal comes from God, cussed be de 
pusson who bre'k de cha'm." 

The man turned an imploring look on Cupe, who 
answered : " De o'deal bean am ha'mless t' de yin- 
necent." 

" Don't poison me, Cupe ; I ain't a dog. Shoot me. 
A man should not die by poison." The negro shook 
his head. The prisoner made one last appeal. 

"My children, my two girls," continued Mr. Manley. 
"For their sakes." 

" Dah am free gearls." 

The man shook his head. 

Cupe pointed to the sleeping child. 

"No." 

'* God help yo' Ma'se. Down wid de o'deal." 

There was no hope now ; that no had steeled the 
negro's heart. By a method that must have been taught 
the mixer of the ordeal by one who was expert at forc- 
ing a liquid down the throat of a struggling person, Cupe 
and Dinah forced the prisoner to drain the strange potion 
to the dregs. Not a drop was spilled. Then Dinah 
went to the kitchen, washed the glass and pan, removed 
every evidence of disorder made by herself, and re- 
turned to find Cupe still facing the now very frightened 
man. 

249 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Cupe," he said, " I feel strangely. There is a 
whirling in my brain; you have poisoned your old 
friend, Cupe." 

" De o'deal am ha'mless t' de yinnecent." 

" Cupe, I know nothing about the mother of the 
girl. I have never seen the girl before." 

" De woman who carry de chile in her arms say dat 
yo' dribe her out into de night. She wrote et all down, 
an she swo' t' dat papah befo' de Stringtown jestice ob 
de peace." 

" My daughters ! " moaned the man, who now real- 
ised fully his position — poison in his blood, disgrace in 
the future. " Cupe, I beg you not to let that paper 
come to light — I beg you." 

" Et hab be'n read by de Stringtown clerk." 

The man's mind wandered ; the deadly African ordeal 
was burning out his nerve power. 

" Save me, Cupe, save the honour of my children," 
he implored. " In the drawer of that secretary you will 
find diamonds and pearls." 

Cupe shook his head. Too well did he know the 
symptoms of that fearful ordeal, from which no man 
ever recovered. All who drank that potion were guilty. 

" De jewels doan all b'long t' Susie." 

" Take them all, but burn that paper. You mean to 
doubly murder me, Cupe ? " 

" De Lawd am yoah jedge, not Cupe." 

The eyes of the man were now fixed on vacancy, his 
breath came spasmodically, his skin turned ashen white. 
" God help me. God save my children ! " 

No sign of sympathy was exhibited by the witnesses 
of the tragedy. Standing by his side, they coldly 
watched his spasmodic struggles until the life of the 
miserable man went out. 

250 



The Fearful African Ordeal Test 

" Dinah," said Cupe, " de Lawd hab be'n de jedge. 
Bressed be de name ob de Lawd ! " 

In the grey of morning the merry frolickers returned. 
In the cheerful sitting-room Mr. Manley sat in his easy- 
chair, his head bowed on his folded arms that rested on 
the stand before him. In his hand, between the fore- 
finger and the thumb, was the ashened stump of a cigar. 
The lamp burned dimly, an open book lay face down on 
the table, beside it stood a decanter and a glass. 

The doctor came. " Death was instantaneous. A 
painless touch at the heart, a drooping of the head; 
peaceable as an infant's sleep, came his last call." 

The preacher came. " A good man has passed away, 
his name honoured throughout the land that knew him. 
His every act was that of righteousness ; never did the 
poor or wronged appeal to him in vain. The soul of 
honour, his course on earth was a just one. Typical 
of sincerity, his every act is clear to the world, his 
record is open to the inspection of whomsoever will. 
Peaceably, as death should come to one who stands ever 
ready to die, did death come here. Touched by the 
kindly finger of God, this upright man went contentedly 
to his final home in the bright beyond." 



251 



CHAPTER XLI 

THE STRINGTOWN SCHOOL 

THE bell on the pole in front of the Stringtown 
schoolhouse had sounded the ending of the after- 
noon recess. Boys and girls together in struggling dis- 
order crowded through the door into the room. In a 
few moments the noisy group had been distributed, and 
the majority at once became absorbed in the lessons that 
were to end the task of the day. Professor Drake had 
called the class in history to the recitation bench and 
had even asked a question of the head student, when the 
proceedings were interrupted by a knock. 

Every head in the room was raised, each pair of eyes 
were fixed on the entrance. " Open the door, Sammy 
Drew," came the order from the teacher, and I sprang to 
do the honours of the occasion. Before me stood Mr. 
Nordman, the old gentleman who lived on the String- 
town pike, south of the village. With a nod he passed 
me by and in his genial manner reached out his hand to 
Professor Drake. But I did not close the door, neither 
did I move in nor out. Close behind him, and now 
facing nie, stood a boy about my own age. Our eyes 
met ; the devil could not have leered more wickedly 
than did he as his eye caught mine. His turned-up 
nose grew more pointed, his thin red lips drew tightly 
and stretched over his gums until I saw impressions 
of his teeth marked in white through their very sub- 
stance. His hat was held in his hand — a hand as red 

252 



The Stringtown School 

as the foot of a duck ; his mop of red hair glistened in 
the sunshine like oak leaves after a frosty spell in 
autumn — red as are the leaves of the autumn oak, red 
as is no other shade of red. 

Then occurred an amazing thing ; while yet I faced 
the boy his impish eyes flashed and created sensations in 
my mind that words could not have done. " We two 
are enemies." Perhaps my own eyes answered his stare. 
Be this as it may, all the viciousness of my nature up- 
rose, and back into his face I leered as insolently as did 
he into mine. His lips turned whiter still as he drew 
them more tightly over his closed teeth, and sure as 
truth can be written, his crimson ears wagged back and 
forth and mocked me. Then while yet they waved 
before my eyes, the scalp of his head began to creep 
backward ; it drew upon the crown until his elongated 
forehead reached near to his ear tips, after which the 
flexible skin flipped suddenly back and gyrated round 
and round, then back and forth, moving, as it did so, 
that mop of hair, which, as the movements of the scalp 
ceased, rose up as do the bristles on a wild hog's back. 
Never before had I seen such gymnastics ; never since 
have I seen his equal. 

But an instant did it take for these things to come 
and pass. I alone saw him, and he alone saw my face, 
for my form closed the jar of the door. We raised our 
fists as by a signal, and then, just as the teacher's voice 
broke upon the air, we sprang at each other as do boys 
who hate each other. Boys fight with teeth and fists 
and finger nails and feet, and so did we, to the credit of 
the most vicious. Unmindful of blow or bruise, of bite 
or finger clutch, we fought in a manner worthy of those 
who fight in behalf of a good cause, but neither good 
nor bad cause had we for which to fight. It was simply 

253 



Stringtown on the Pike 

fight. The bruises made by the stony pavement on 
which we rolled were unfelt, the blow of the fist that 
" smashed " my nose and bloodied my face and gar- 
ments gave me no pain, the bite that left the print of 
two sets of teeth on my arm did not concern me. I 
gave as good as I received — that point alone was my 
ambition — and when we two combatants were parted 
by Professor Drake and Mr. Nordman it would have 
been difficult to say whether either had been punished 
more than the other. " A devilish good fight on short 
notice," said Mr. Nordman, in a tone that bespoke no 
ill will; but Prof. Drake took another view of the 
matter. A gross breach of discipline had been com- 
mitted and a strict rule of the school broken. 

We were led inside, and then Prof. Drake chalked 
two small circles on the floor. Side by side, each in his 
ring, stood the Red-Headed Boy and myself, both defiant, 
each more vicious than before. My blood was scat- 
tered over his garments, and clumps of his red hair were 
sticking between my fingers. The eye next me was 
closed, the ear on the same side was lacerated and 
bloody. " A devilish spunky pair, I say," added Mr. 
Nordman, who now occupied a chair on the rostrum 
beside Prof. Drake. But the indignant teacher made no 
reply. 

" Samuel Drew," he spoke severely, " explain to me 
the cause of this disgraceful aff^air." 

1 made no answer. There was no " cause " to 
explain. 

" Did this boy say anything to warrant you in striking 
him ? " 

" No, sir." 

" Did he strike you first ? " 

" No, sir." 

254 



The Stringtown School 

" Had he struck you previously ? " 

" No, sir." 

" Did he give you reason to fight ? " 

« Yes, sir." 

" What did he do ? " 

" Nothing." 

" Nothing ! and yet gave you reason to fight him," 
said the teacher ironically. 

" Yes, sir," I answered. 

Turning to the other boy, Mr. Drake asked : 

" Did Sammy say anything to you ? " 

« Nuthin'." 

" Did he strike you first ? " 

" No." 

" Have you and Sammy fought before this time ? " 

" No." 

" Why did you fight r " 

" Fer nuthin'." 

The eyes of Drake dropped to the floor. As they 
did so, the lacerated ear of the Red-Headed Boy, the ear 
toward me, moved up and down, back and forth. The 
young devil was mocking me again. I could not answer 
him in the same way, but I scraped a tuft of his hair 
from between my fingers, and as he eyed me, slyly I 
twirled it before his gaze. The war was still on. 

" It will do no good to flog these boys," said Mr. 
Nordman, who it could be seen was not disturbed over 
the combat. 

" I am not in favour of physical punishment," an- 
swered the professor. " I do not whip boys. Discipline, 
however, is necessary. I must punish them severely." 

" Professah," spoke Mr. Nordman, " will you permit 
me, sah, to make a suggestion ? " 

" Certainly. I shall value it.'* 

255 



Stringtown on the Pike 

*' I am an old man and have learned some things as I 
have passed along. Blood is blood, sah, and blood 
counts. Young folks are not old folks. I cannot say 
that I can see anything wrong about what these boys 
have done, unless it be in the place selected for the fight. 
It wah fair on both sides, and neither of them showed 
the white feather. School is for study, I '11 admit, but 
not all of it can be study and, by Gad ! when the time 
comes that American boys are punished for an innocent 
tussle and taught never to fight, sah, the prospect for 
our country is devilish bad, Professah ! " 

Again the professor flushed. 

" I am an old man, Professah Drake, and you will 
take kindly what I have to say. Don't punish the boy 
who faces the music, but him who runs away. If you '11 
persuade Sammy to fight no mo'ah during school hours, 
I ansah for that chap," and he pointed to my antagonist. 
" But unless something strongah than yoah rules prevent, 
they will fight it out yet, sure as shooting, Professah." 

Professor Drake mused a moment. 

" Sammy, take your place at your desk," he said. 
Looking about the room, he selected a vacant seat. 
separated quite a distance from my bench, for the new 
boy. 



256 



CHAPTER XLII 

Susie's introduction to the stringtown school 

AS I sat at my desk that afternoon, my mind reverted 
to the past. I recalled that it had really been 
predicted that this boy and I were to be antagonists. 
Then, as my meditating mind drew a still clearer view 
of the past, I recalled the exact words of the black 
omen-reader who had warned me to '■^ Beware of the 
Red-Head Boy ! " Back and forth ran fragments of 
the long-neglected prediction, until at last I caught 
another sentence : " Et say dat de Red-Head Boy '11 die 
sudden, an' dat yo' an' Susie '11 be de cause ; an' dat 
yo '11 die sudden, an' dat de Red-Head Boy an' Susie '11 
be de cause." 

There sat the evil object of the omen-reading seer ; and 
then, as the last part of the sentence ran again through 
my mind, I glanced over among the girls, at one who 
came among us in the early part of the present session. 
I remember that morning well. She was accompanied 
by old negro Cupe, who stood with bare head beside the 
open door while her name was being recorded and her 
bench place selected. Every morning the negro brought 
his charge to the door, every evening when school was 
dismissed he stood patiently waiting outside. A little, 
shrinking bit of a girl was she, strangely dressed, neat, 
clean, starched and prim. I recall her timid look as she 
stood that morning before Professor Drake — the shy 
17 257 



Stringtown on the Pike 

glance she shot about the room, the shrinking, drooping 
eye that fell to the floor as she met the gaze of those 
about, for all eyes were fixed upon her — a new 
scholar. 

" Your name, child ? " asked Professor Drake, who 
with pen in hand was prepared to enter the name on the 
school record. It was merely a question of formality, 
for all of Stringtown knew the girl, all of Stringtown 
knew her history, how she had disappeared when the 
two negroes did and returned again with them from 
Canada. 

" Susie," was the low answer. 

" Your other name, please ? " 

" I am only Susie." 

I who sat near caught the flush on her cheek as her 
eyes drooped. 

The teacher seemed inclined to ask another question. 
Then, perhaps because he too noticed the cheek flush, 
forbore and motioned her to be seated. 

" Children," he said, speaking to the school, " we 
have a new scholar to-day, one long absent from String- 
town, but whom I have wished since her return to 
number among us. This child " — and he looked at 
Susie — " deserves to be treated with the utmost kind- 
ness. She is my especial charge for she has excited my 
personal interest. While no favouritism can be shown 
by me for or against any pupil, still I wish it to be 
known that whoever mistreats this child will incur my 
severest displeasure ; and that those who aid and favour 
her will please me very much. Let the older girls take 
an interest in her welfare by assisting the little girl in 
every way possible, and in making her school-days 
pleasant." Then looking about the room, he said : 
'' My child take your seat at the desk with Jennie Man- 

258 



Susie's Introduction to School 

ley." Jennie Manley was the youngest daughter of the 
planter who had suddenly died one night a few months 
before. 

And so Susie came shrinkingly into the Stringtown 
school in the commencement of this session, the school 
I had dumbly attended all my school life, and to which, 
now came the Red-Headed Boy of Nordman. We three 
were at last together in the same room. 

The girls of our Stringtown school gave Susie a warm 
reception ; they opened their hearts to the waif, and 
soon the wild child was made to feel at home. Bright 
and cheerful, grateful for little kindnesses, she made for 
herself a place in each heart, and Professor Drake had no 
need to ask further favours in her behalf. 

Not so warm was the reception the boys of our school 
gave " Red-Head." His advent, it is true, had been such 
as to merit their admiration, and his subsequent deport- 
ment was defiant enough to please any Kentucky-bred 
boy. But he made no friends. He came alone to 
school each morning, alone he left when study hours 
were over. During recess, if the weather was fair, he 
sat on the fence and whittled, taking no part in the 
games of the boys ; if the weather was bad he sought a 
lone spot inside the room. His sarcastic face leered at 
all who approached him. Within a week no boy spoke 
to him, he in turn gave no word to others, and an occa- 
sional cat wail could be heard when his back was turned. 
But no other boy sought a direct quarrel. By common 
consent, it seemed, the field was left for us — we two 
who were conspicuous in that we never looked at each 
other and alone gave no taunt when accident brought us 
together ; too deep was the hatred that down in our 
natures spoke from each to the other, rendering no 
taunt necessary. War had been declared when first we 

259 



Stringtown on the Pike 

met, and it seemed evident that no peace could come 
between us until the fight had been finished. 

And so the " Red-Head " came and went ; never did 
he seem to look at any girl, surely he did not speak to 
any boy. As I recall those days I perceive, as I could 
not then, that if ever a boy stood isolated in the world 
that Stringtown boy was alone. And as I think of the 
dreary part our school was to him, I cannot but ques- 
tion, had I not met him half way and struck that blow, 
would he have struck me ? If we had not fought that 
afternoon in the old Stringtown schoolyard, would the 
chain of events that followed have been diverted ? Had 
the boys and girls of our school sought to befriend him, 
as we might have done, and should have done, would 
the evil in his make-up have strengthened as it did ? 
Would goodness and grace have upstarted and displaced 
the pernicious emotions that seemed to then dominate 
his life ? I cannot answer, and these musings are not 
pleasant, for it is evident now that there was cause to 
seek for evil in myself. 



260 



CHAPTER XLIII 

THE CHALLENGE OF RED-HEAD 

MEMORY is not less vivid than is sight. I can 
see that uncouth boy now as plainly as I saw 
him then. Sitting on the line fence that separated our 
school from the neighbour on the south, his favourite 
place was a conspicuous locust post, that near the pike 
line gave a good view both up and down the street. 
His employment consisted in watching this road, whit- 
tling a stick and sharpening his great horn-handled 
knife. I might say that his main object seemed to be to 
scan the pike; for even while whittling, his bright, little 
eyes were ever glancing about as though he were expect- 
ing some one. Watchful may better express the sen- 
sation that comes now to my mind as I reflect over his 
method and deportment. That knife needs also a word, 
for it was ever in his hand. It was not an ordinary 
pocket-knife, but big enough to " stick a hog." True, 
the blade closed into a rude buckhorn handle, still it was 
not such a clasp-knife as merchants carry in stock. It 
seemed to have been rudely made by a blacksmith. Be 
that as it may, Red-Head knew how to use it. Indif- 
ferent to our games or pastimes, he held himself aloof, 
knife in hand, perched upon the fence, gazing up the 
pike. Yet occasionally he did take part in some boyish 
turn. 

We were playing at hop-skip-and-jump, we school- 
boys. The game had drawn itself down until the two 

261 



Stringtown on the Pike 

rival jumpers of the school confronted each other. 
Every boy but Red-Head had taken part, and he, in- 
different, sat on the fence idly gazing first up the pike 
and then down upon the striving contestants below him. 
A sneer from some boy met his ear, but sneers were not 
new to him. 

" Afraid to jump, Red-Head ? " cried one. 

" Who 's afeard ? " 

" Red-Head ! " piped in another. 

Slowly climbing down from his perch on the opposite 
side of the fence from us, the mountain boy closed his 
knife, and with a run and a jump sprang straight toward 
the tall fence. High into the air his lithe form rose, 
drew itself into a knot as the top of the fence was 
reached, doubled a somersault in the air, then over with- 
out touching, over and far beyond was he when those 
heels struck and marked the soft earth. Never before 
had such a jump been made in the Stringtown school- 
yard — or rather, I should say, into the Stringtown 
school-yard. We village boys stood amazed at the feat 
of the youth from the mountains, who gave us no word, 
but went back to his post, climbed the fence and turned 
his gaze again toward the south. 

Some time after that we were shooting at a mark, the 
weapon being a rifle of small bore (a squirrel rifle), the 
object a sheet of paper on a plank against a distant tree. 
" Strange amusement that for children ! " some may say. 
True, but I speak of Kentucky in the 'sixties. Again 
some defiant boy singled out Red-Head and challenged 
him to join us — dared him to shoot. Indifferent as he 
had been in the jumping contest did he seem in this. 
Leaning the gun we used against the fence, he stepped 
to the line, and before we could anticipate his object, 
from an inside pocket of his jacket he drew a bright 

262 



The Challenge of Red-Head 

revolver. Raising it, without aiming, he fired and 
waited the result. Several boys sprang to the mark ; 
there was the bullet hole in the plank far above the 
wildest shot we had made. A cry of derision, a series 
of cat mews, a chorus of sarcastic jeers, rang upon the 
air. 

" Better git a rest," sneered one. 

" Fools ! " he said, " thet 's the mark tcr shoot at. 
Ef yo' wah raised in the moun'ns, an' would shoot at a 
whole sheet ov papah, they 'd take yoah gun away an' 
drive yo' off. Thet 's the mark, I say — one bullet hole 
fer the centre an' five in a ring jest 'roun' et." As he 
spoke his arm was raised again, and as fast as the trigger 
could be pulled came five shots. Again we sprang to 
the distant mark, and there, in a close circle, equal dis- 
tances apart, was a ring of little holes. I recall the 
exact words he had used, " One bullet hole fer the cen- 
tre an' five in a ring jest 'roun' et." 

But, alas ! our challenge resulted in disaster to the 
expert marksman. No boy of the Stringtown school 
was permitted to carry a pistol. That weapon was 
positively prohibited by Professor Drake, who considered 
the carrying of a pistol by a boy to be sufficient cause 
for expulsion. We had been deeply absorbed in our 
sport, and as the hand that held the spent revolver 
dropped, the boy who held it was taken by the shoulder 
in the firm grasp of our teacher, who, unperceived by us, 
had from behind joined the group, every eye of which 
had been fixed on the mark. 

Red-Head was led away by his captor, while we who 
had been the cause of his arrest, but who had escaped, 
hung our heads. 

In a moment the bell calling us to the room rang, and 
knowing that trouble was in the air, we sought our 

263 



Stringtown on the Pike 

places. There sat the teacher ; near him the empty re- 
volver lay on the table, and before him stood the captive 
child awaiting the outcome of the crime he had com- 
mitted in thus breaking the strictest rule of our village 
school. 

Then spoke Professor Drake, addressing the culprit : 
" It is against the rules of this school to carry concealed 
w^eapons. Some years ago a boy was killed by his class- 
mate in this very yard, and since that no pistol has been 
allowed in school. I must punish you severely, but be- 
fore doing so it is but just that I should ask why you 
have disgraced yourself by breaking this rule ? " 

*■'■ I hain't disgraced myself, an' I hain't hurt nobody." 

" But you surely know that it is wrong to carry a 
weapon like this." 

" It ain't wrong fer me ter carry ct." 

*' It is never right to carry a pistol in a civilised com- 
munity." 

" Teachah, ef yo' knew my story, yo' would n't say 
et 's wrong fer me ter carry a gun. Ef yo' hed been 
through what I hev, an' looked fer what 's com'n', yo' d 
carry one too." 

This was said half persuasively, half defiantly. The 
head of the boy was raised proudly ; no appearance of 
shame bespread his face, no drooping glance. " I hed 
the gun in my pocket when I fought thet feller " (he 
pointed to me), " an' did n't use et. I don't intend ter 
shoot boys. I hain't but one use fer et, an' when the 
time comes I '11 need the gun awful bad, teachah." 

" Tell me your story." 

" Et's too long, an' don't consarn nobody but me." 

" Tell me why it is right for you to carry a pistol. I 
command it. Tell me all." 



264 



CHAPTER XLIV 

red-head's story of the feud 

" T 'M from the moun'ns, I am, I don't know jest now 
A we'uns came ter live thar, an' et don't make no 
difF'r'nce. We always lived in the moun'ns ov East 
Kaintuck. Our house w'an't no great shakes, et jest 
hed two rooms an' a mud chimney. Thet's all. 

" Dad said, said he, one day when I wah a little thing, 
an' he pinted back over the hog-back hill b'hind the 
cabin — ' Don't none ov yo' children cross the divide. 
Keep this side ov Bald Hill, fer thar's a feud' twixt Hol- 
combs and we-uns.' I can't remember when he fust 
said this, et war when I war too little ter remember, but 
he said et often. An' we never crost the hog-back hill, 
none ov us, fer dad said thet the feud war ofF till the 
Holcombs er we-uns broke et by cross'n' the divide. 
An' es we grew bigger, brother Jim an' me, mam kept 
us up in the story ov the feud. 

" ' Ef et ever happens thet the feud es on ag'in,' sez 
she, ' thar won't be no end ter et es long es thar es a 
Holcomb er a Nordman livin'.' She said et hed been 
one ov the bloodiest feuds ov the moun'ns, an' more 'n a 
dozen hed been killed on each side, an' she showed us 
the row ov Holcombs on one side ov the graveyard an' 
the row of we-uns on tother side. I axed her what the 
feud war 'bout, but she said, said she : ' I don't jest re- 
member. Et b'gun befoah I come inter the family, but 

265 



Stringtown on the Pike 

et don't make no difF'r'nce 'bout the beginnin', thet don't 
consarn us.' 

" An' dad, he did n't talk much 'bout et neither, but 
when brother Jim an' I could hold a gun he taught us 
all 'bout shootin' ! ' Et air fer bus'ness p'r'aps,' he said ; 
' ef the feud begins ag'in yo' boys '11 be in't.' There ain't 
no mo'ah ter say, teachah, 'bout the feud, an' I don't 
know nuthin' mo'ah. Jim an' me I'arned ter shoot, an' 
et did n't make much difference what et war we shot at, 
we hit et. An' dad grew monstrous proud ov us, an' 
one day I heerd him say ter mam thet he did n't care 
now ef the feud war on ag'in. But he kept tellin' me 'n 
Jim ter keep this side ov Bald Hill, an' we did. Jim 
war 'bout two years older then me, teachah. 

'' But one day we started a young deer, an' et run fer 
the divide. We bed n't no guns, fer we war out fishin', 
but es et war a leetle critter, we started ter try an' ketch 
et runnin'. We did n't notice whar et run, an' befoah I 
knew et, we war goin' down the moun'n tother side ov 
Bald Hill. Jim war ahead an' mighty close on the deer 
when bang went a gun in the thicket, an' Jim dropped." 

Here the boy stopped, hung his head and drew his 
coarse sleeve across his eyes. " 'Scuse me, teachah," 
he said, " I ain't used t' talkin', an' et makes me tired t' 
speak so 'long." 

In a moment he resumed : " I run t' Jim an' raised 
his head, but et war no use, he did n't know me. He 
war dead. A minie ball bed gone in jest above one ear 
an' out jest below tother. I could n't do nuthin' fer Jim, 
an' so I drapped him an' started ter sneak fer the thicket. 
I wanted ter see who done the shootin', an' I did see, 
too. I did n't go straight for the spot, but snook ter the 
right an' got inter a hollah, an' then I crept up till I 
come near ter the place the smoke come from, but thar 

266 



Red-Head's Story of the Feud 

want no one thar. Jest then I looked back, an' slippin' 
'long the hillside, I saw a man stooped over tryin' ter 
keep the laurel thicket 'twixt Jim an' hisself. He got 
'twixt an' old stump an' Jim an' cocked his gun an' 
looked up. He war a monstrous tall man, Old Holcomb. 
He could see Jim a-layin' thar, but he didn't seem ter 
care fer him, an' I saw thet he war lookin' fer me. 
Lord, teachah, ef I hed only hed my gun then ! 

" But es I did n't, I jest laid low an' then slipped inter 
the briars, an' sneaked 'roun' the hill an' made fer home. 

*' Mam an' dad an' little Sis war sittin' at the table 
eatin' supper when I stepped inter the door. ' Whar 's 
Jim ? ' mam axed. 

" ' Shot ! ' 

" Dad got up an' pinted ter Bald Hill. *■ Hev yo' boys 
crost the divide ? ' 

" ' Yes.' 

" ' Es he dead ? ' 

" I jest put a finger on each side ov my head. ' Minie 
ball,' was all I said. ' He 's lyin' jest over the hog- 
back.' 

" Dad turned ter the fireplace an' took down his big 
b'ar gun — the big b'ar gun — ' I '11 bring Jim home. Yo' 
folks keep in the cabin till I come. Don't yo' go out.' 

" ' The feud 's on ag'in,' war all mam said. But she 
blew the coals up an' commenced ter run bullets fer 
the big gun an' she set me ter cleanin' up the rifle an' 
revolvers. 

" But dad did n't come home till long after dark, an' 
he did n't come home then nuther. Sis an' I went ter 
sleep, but I guess mam did n't, fer 'bout daylight I war 
waked by a knock on the door, an' es I opened my eyes 
I saw she war dressed. She took down the ir'n bar an' 
let dad in ; he hed Jim in his arms. ' The feud 's on/ 

267 



Strino;town on the Pike 

he said. ' Thar '11 be a grave dug 'cross the hill too 
when we bury Jim. Et war a long shot, but I caught 
him through the winder.' 

'' ' Who 'd yo' git ? ' asked mam. 

" ' Don't know whether 't is the old man er the boy, 
they 're 'bout the same size, but et's one ov 'em.' 

" Well, teachah, we buried Jim in our row, an' next 
day Sam Holcomb war buried in thern. Then we all 
got ready ter kill an' be killed. Thar wa'n't much ter 
do but ter kiver the winders close, ter keep the guns 
clean an' then sneak in an' out the house. Et war 
watch an' sneak an' hunt an' sneak. We killed all our 
dogs 'ceptin' one fice thet stayed in the house ter bark, 
fer they hedn't sense 'nough ter keep out ov sight, an' ef 
a dog war seen in the bushes et would give us away. 
One night mam war shot by a ball that come through 
the winder. Et war jest a little crack, but big 'nough 
ter let light out an' a bullet in. She wa'n't killed dead, 
but she could n't live long, an' she knowed et. ' Red,' 
she said ter me, ' take good care ov little Sissie. She 
air too young to fight, but when she 's grown up she '11 
marry an' raise a family ter help carry on the feud. An' 
Red,' she said, ' make me one promise.' 

" ' Go on, mam, I '11 do et.' 

"'Don't yo' let up on the feud. Red. Et must be 
ter the end.' 

" ' Yo' need n't make me promise thet,' 1 said, ' I '11 
fight et out.' 

" ' I'd die happy ef your dad were livin' ter help yo'.' 

" ' Never mind dad,' I said. ' Thar air only one feller 
left over the hill, the old man. Dad shot three ov 'em 
before they got him, an' I shot one, an' we can't expect 
ter hev all the luck.' " 

Here the teacher interrupted. " Why did n't you go 
268 



Red-Head's Story of the Feud 

for a doctor? Perhaps your mother's wound might not 
have been necessarily fatal." 

" Doctor nuthin'. Thar wa'n't no doctor 'n fifteen 
miles ov our place ; b'sides, ef I hed opened the door 
thet night I 'd hev got a ball too. Yo' don't know 
nuthin' 'bout the moun'ns an' the feuds, teachah." 

" You say that your father had been killed ? " 

"Yes; fergot ter mention et, but he hed been shot 
down 'bout a month befoah. Next mornin' I shut Sis 
in the cabin an' sneaked over ter Jones' an' axed him 
ter come an' bury mam ; an' I tell yo', teachah, things 
war monstrous quiet 'bout our place fer a time after thet. 
Sis hed I'arned ter keep still an' stay in the house. She 
war only 'bout three years old, but she hed seen some 
bad dahs, teachah, an' hed lots ov sense fer sech a little 
thing. Jim war shot, dad war shot, an' mam war shot, 
but thar wa'n't but one Holcomb left. An' it war Sis 
er me next ef I could n't git him first ! " 

For the second time the narrator stopped and drew 
his coarse sleeve slowly across his eyes. " Et makes me 
tired, I says, ter talk so long, teachah, but I '11 git my 
wind an' be rested in a minit." Then he continued : 
" I war too little ter use the big gun, an' hed ter trust 
to the pistol er the light rifle, an et wa'n't fair now, fer 
Tom Holcomb war the tallest man I ever seed, an' he 
shot with a Springfield musket. But when a feller 's in 
a feud, et don't make no difference 'bout the size. Et 's 
kill er git killed. I did what 1 promised mam I 'd do 
es best I could. I hed n't much chance, fer I hed ter 
slip in an' out the cabin an' watch fer my own life an' 
care fer Sis an' try ter git a bead on Holcomb. But 
't wa'n't no use, things war ag'in me. I slipped out one 
mornin' through the back door ter git some meal, fer 
thar wa'n't a bite ov bread in the place, an' when I came 

269 



Stringtown on the Pike 

back the front door war wide open. When I saw thet 
open door I feared et meant trouble. I crept inter the 
house the back way, an' thar in the open door, huggin' 
her little rag doll, sat Sissie. I could see the head ov 
the doll over her shoulder. The sun war shinin' bright 
in her face, her back war toward me, her little head 
leaned ag'in the side ov the door, an' she looked es 
sweet es a pictur. ' Sis,' I said, ' Sissie, yo' mussent 
sit in the doorj Tom Holcomb '11 git you, Sis.' But 
she did n't say nuthin'. ' Guess she 's asleep,' I thought, 
an' slipped ter her side an' jumped at her an' cried, 
' Boo f Boo ! ' But she did n't move." 

The boy's head dropped again, his chest heaved con- 
vulsively. Sob after sob broke the air. Suddenly con- 
trolling himself, he defiantly turned toward us boys. 
"I'll thrash the feller what laughs et me. I ain't a 
coward ef I did cry." 

" My child," said the teacher, as he brushed away a 
tear from his own eyes, for the affecting climax came so 
suddenly as to unnerve him too, " no one blames you 
for crying. I condemn myself for leading you to tell 
in public this pathetic story of your life. It is I who 
am in fault, but I did not know what was coming. It 
is a shame." 

" Yes," answered the boy, " et war a shame ter shoot 
sech a chunk ov lead through sech a little bit ov a girl. 
Thet bullet war big 'nough ter kill a b'ar. But I '11 git 
even with Holcomb yit." 

" I meant that it is a shame that I let you tell this 
sorrowful story here." 

" Et ain't done yet, teachah. The little thing hed 
opened the door ter sit in the sunshine, an' a bullet the 
size ov your thumb hed ploughed through her chest an' 
out her back. I picked her up an' laid her on the bed, 

270 



Red-Head's Story of the Feud 

an' then took an' old satchel an' put a few things inter 
et (I hed n't much) an' carefully wrapped up the little 
bloody doll, an' put thet on top. I hain't got nuthin' 
else now ter mind me ov Sissie but thet doll. I barred 
the front door an' slipped out the back way, out an' over 
the spur ter Jones's house. I took my pistol — thet 's 
the very pistol " (he pointed to the weapon on the table) 
" an' left the guns an' everything else. 

" ' Et ain't fair,' I said ter Jones ; ' Holcomb's too 
big fer me.' 

" ' Goin' ter run away ? ' said Jones. 

" No ; goin' ter go away ter grow bigger. Tell Tom 
Holcomb thet ef he wants me I '11 be in Stringtown on 
the Pike." 

" ' An' ef he don't foller yo' ? ' 

" ' When I 'm big 'nough ter handle a Springfield gun 
I '11 be back ag'in. Tell him the feud 's on till one er 
the other ov us es shot.' 

" ' An' Sissie ! air yo' goin' ter leave Sissie ? ' " said 
Jones. 

" ' She don't need me no longer. Yo '11 find her on 
the bed in the cabin. Bury her in the row, 'longside 
ov mam. I shan't go ter the buryin', fo' I can't run no 
risk ov old Holcomb's gun.' 

" Thet 's all, teachah." 

Drawing the child to his side, Professor Drake gently 
smoothed the unkempt red hair, parting it with his 
fingers in the place a part should be, but seldom before 
had been seen. Then he spoke : 

" And you expect Mr. Holcomb to follow you to 
Stringtown ? " 

" I looks fer him every minit, an' I hev ter watch 
sharp. Thar ain't no other head like mine, an' es soon 
es he sots eyes on et he '11 draw his gun. Thet 's why 

271 



Stringtown on the Pike 

I sits on the fence-post watchin' the pike ; ef I cotch 
sight ov him first, et '11 help me powerful much." 
" If he observes you before you see him ? " 
" Holcomb's a dead shot, teachah, an' my head 's a 
good mark. Thar ain't much chance. Teachah," he 
continued, " please give me back my pistol an' give me 
leave ter carry et, fer I needs et bad. I hain't no other 
friend this side ov the graveyard in the moun'ns. Ef 
I fights any ov these 'ere boys I '11 use my fists er a 
stick er a stone. I '11 bite an' scratch, like the girls do, 
I '11 pull hair like thet feller " (he pointed to me). " I 
promise thet I '11 not use a gun lessen Holcomb comes. 
Ef he does, et '11 mean the endin' of the feud one way 
er tother, an' ef I hain't no gun et '11 be his way sure. 
I 'm a bad boy, teachah, es yo' folks looks et me, but 
yo' hain't seed things es I 've seed 'em. Yo' wa'n't 
raised in the moun'ns, an' none ov yo' hain't no feud 
ter fight out. Please give me back my gun. I '11 jest 
set on the fence and won't bother nobody." 

Deeply moved by Red-Head's dramatic story. Prof. 
Drake stood for some moments in silent meditation. 
" I perceive there comes a time," he mournfully said 
to himself, " when duty demands that wrong be con- 
tinued in behalf of wrong that has been established. 
Alas, the law under which these people live makes that 
which we call wrong into what they call right ! It is 
wrong for me to allow this boy to carry a pistol with 
murder in his heart, and surely that is the object. But 
a greater wrong it would be to render him defenseless, 
for he might in that condition encounter his enemy, the 
misguided armed man, who would shoot him on sight." 
Then taking the revolver from the table, the teacher 
handed it to the pleading boy. " Child," he gently 
said, " as a special privilege, I give you permission to 

272 



Red-Head's Story of the Feud 

carry this weapon, which you need to defend your life, 
but I shall speak to Mr. Nordman concerning this affair, 
and endeavour to reach and disarm Mr. Holcomb, or at 
least prevail on him to keep away from Stringtown." 

" Nordman knows all 'bout it, and he takes my part. 
But yo' needn't try t' stop Holcomb. He knows every 
hole in the moun'ns, an' he don't intend t' quit 'till the 
feud's fought t' the end. No one kin edge in. It's 
him an' me fer et, teachah." 



i8 



273 



CHAPTER XLV 

" TELL ME, JENNIE, TELL ME WHAT IT IS " 

\ 

THE fall session passed, the holidays came and 
went, the spring session had nearly worn itself 
away. The evil predictions concerning us three chil- 
dren had passed from my mind, and no longer disturbed 
over the Red-Head Boy, I looked forward to the coming 
autumn, when I hoped that my life in the Stringtown 
school would terminate. The session's close ap- 
proached, Susie in loving friendship with all the girls, 
my antagonist without a friend among the boys. Well 
do I remember that fateful last morning. 

That morning, of which the date is lost and need not 
be revived, for the story I have to relate does no credit 
to any day, the girls of the Stringtown school were, I 
perceived as I sat in place before school opened, in sub- 
dued excitement. Whispering groups in earnest con- 
versation indicated that something of importance had 
occurred to disturb them. When a boy chanced to 
approach the lips would cease to move, but would be- 
gin to buzz again on his departure, indicating that the 
subject-matter was fit only for girls to hear. I sat alone 
in my place, and so did Red-Head. We two boys had 
troubles of our own. Red-Head and I had met again, 
had " mouthed " each other, had parted to await by ap- 
pointment the ending of the session now near at hand. 
I knew full well that Professor Drake would not over- 
look a second fight, and my antagonist knew that Mr. 

274 



"Tell me, Jennie, what it is" 

Nordman had promised that he should be obedient and 
break no rules. He sulked in his place, scowling at 
whomsoever chanced to meet his gaze, while I sat 
glumly in my place meditating over the coming fight. 
The prediction of the old negro Cupe sprang to my 
mind ; I looked across the room to the girls. Susie 
was not in her place. Then it was that I first chanced 
to observe the whispering group with heads close pressed 
together, and as the moments passed I sat silently eyeing 
them, studying their movements, and at last I concerned 
myself enough to wonder what could have occurred to 
create such subdued excitement In their ranks. 

The door opened, and Susie tripped into the room. 
I watched her as she passed down the open space before 
the door, across and past the spot where once the teacher 
had marked two circles on the floor for Red-Head and 
me to stand in, until she reached a group of girls who, 
on opposing seats, sat with heads together, leaning across 
the aisles. These girls shrank back, gazing intently into 
her face as she drew near, but made no offer to return 
the pleasant greeting. A cold stare was their response, 
and beneath it the smile on Susie's face disappeared. 
She was only a child, but no words were necessary to 
tell to her the story carried by those unfeeling eyes and 
shrinking forms. She passed along with downcast face, 
her satchel of books hanging upon her arm. From the 
cheek toward me the blood had fled, leaving a surface 
white as dough ; I saw those roses fade as I have some- 
times seen a beautifully tinted evening cloud deaden and 
turn to leaden hue. Down the aisle toward her own 
desk passed the child while on either side, peering at her 
as girls who have the devil in their hearts only can, sat 
those Stringtown girls. But Susie looked neither to the 
right nor to the left, although it could be seen that she 



Stringtown on the Pike 

felt the touch of those scornful eyes. Her deskmate, 
Jennie Manley, the youngest daughter of the " upright " 
Mr. Manley, sat in her place; but as Susie approached 
she too drew away as though the touch of the garment 
of the approaching girl might be unclean. The child 
stopped short, the satchel of books slipped from her 
nerveless arm and fell upon the floor. Pleadingly she 
raised her clasped hands, then dropped into her seat and 
imploringly turned her pallid face upon her deskmate. 
Her form seemed to draw into itself as does the delicate, 
shrinking, sensitive plant when touched by a rough hand. 
Her words came low and tremulous, but I caught them : 

" Tell me, Jennie ! tell me what it is ! " 

For reply the deskmate drew back again. Then 
came whispers from about ; the busy tongues of String- 
town girls were loosed. Slowly the kneeling child arose, 
and turned back toward the door; she did not stop to 
pick up the fallen satchel ; a rosy apple touched by 
her foot rolled across the floor to the rostrum, but she 
heeded it not. The whispers grew louder as she passed 
back along that vacated aisle, and then as she reached 
the middle of the open space before the door, one tongue, 
bolder and more vicious than the others, sang in sarcastic 
monotone, " Only Susie, Nigger Susie, ^igg^^ Susie ! " 

Had the girl been instantly petrified she could not 
have stopped more suddenly. A pallor came over her 
face. Her beseeching eyes wandered about from one 
to another as if appealing for help from a sympathetic 
soul, but no response other than a malicous stare met 
her gaze, and she turned again toward the door. 

The Red-Headed Boy of Nordman sprang across the 
floor and threw his left arm about the shrinking girl, 
who dropped her head convulsively upon his shoulder. 
Raising his clenched fist, he shook it viciously at the 

276 



ii 



Tell me, Jennie, what it is" 



group of girls, and shouted : " I kin thrash the brother 
ov the girl who said them words ter this un ! " Giving 
them no time to reply, he continued : '' I kin thrash 
any boy in school ov my size ! I 'm a bad boy from 
the Kaintuck moun'ns, but I ain't bad 'nough ter be a 
brother ter sech a set es you-uns ! I 'm awful mean an' 
bad ! I kin knock the eyes out ov a pig an' watch et 
stumble 'bout ; I kin pull the legs off ov a frog an' 
watch et try ter hop ; I kin break the wings ov a bird 
an' watch et flutter — them's the things I kin do! 
Whatever 's bad es fun fer me ! I kin do anything 
mean thet any other boy ever did, but I ain't mean er 
bad 'nough ter be a brother ter sech a set es you-uns ! 
Bring on yer brothers, I says, bring 'em one at a time 
er two at a clip, an' I '11 thrash the lot ! I 'II fight with 
fist er teeth er club er stone er gun ! I 'm Nordman's 
Red-Head Boy, I am — thet's what yo' calls me, an' thet's 
me, an' I 'm a devilish bad un ! I 've killed my man too 
up in the moun'ns, an' I '11 kill another er get shot myself." 

He stood defiant, vicious, malignant. The skin on 
his head began to wabble, as if making sport of his 
hearers ; the ears moved back and forth again as they did 
the day I faced him ; and I saw, too, that he and Susie 
stood together on the spot where he and I had once 
stood. But my admiration for him now supplanted mv 
hatred. I sprang from my place and moved toward the 
two children, holding out my hand. " Let me be with 
you and Susie," I said, "we three together. Let us be 
friends." 

" Back," he cried, " er I '11 hit yo' ! I want no 
friend in Stringtown ! I hate yo' all, I hate everbody 
on earth. I hate Susie, too, 'cause she 's been born, 
but I takes up fer her now not 'cause I cares fer her, 
but 'cause yo' all hev thrown her down." 

277 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" You need not hate me any longer, I am your friend 
now ! " I cried. 

" I '11 hit yo' ef yo' don't go back ! I ain't no friend 
of yourn ef yo' air ov mine. We 'II fight et out day 
after school closes." 

In a very different tone he spoke now to Susie, " We 
two air alone, Susie. Yo' hain't no name ter be proud 
ov, an' I hain't never hed none at all. You 're ' only 
Susie,' an' I 'm only Red Head. I '11 take yo' home ter 
nigger Cupe, an' I'll thrash the feller what insults yo' 
ever ag'in." He looked at the girls and spoke in an 
earnest tone, and with language such as I could not 
have expected him to use. " Girls, yo' air meaner 'n 
pison an' sneakiner 'n snakes. This un hain't done yo' 
no harm, an' she ain't ter blame fer the deviltry ov the 
coward ov a father who desarted her. I hearn all yoah 
whisperin' ; my ears kin stand up an' cotch mighty low 
sounds. I know all yo' said, an' I answers all ov yo' 
now. I takes back what I promised the teachah 'bout 
shootin' in this school. I '11 shoot the brother ov the 
first girl who even makes another whisper 'gainst this 
one. Ef she ain't no brother I '11 shoot her dad, an' ef 
she hain't no dad" — he stopped — "I'll take et out 
ov her own hide, but I '11 not kill her. Don't fergit 
what I says, fer I means et. 

" Come, Susie," he continued, " we hev no use fer 
this place now. Yo' an' me air alone in the world. 
Yo' air Susie nobody an' I am nobody, the Red-Head." 
Turning to me, he added : " Yo' wants ter shake hands, 
but we two don't shake no hands till after the fight. 
I '11 meet yo' in Indian Hollah where yo' said yo 'd be 
the mornin' after school shets up, but thar ain't ter be 
no shakin' ov hands." 

Never again did either he or she enter the door of the 
Stringtown school. 278 



CHAPTER XLVI 

" STRANGE SENSATION THAT, THE BEGINNING OF LOVE " 

THE morning after the close of school found me 
alone, on my way to the appointed spot. Spring 
had opened, the blue-grass was tall in the fence corners, 
the corn in the field had been thinned and ploughed 
for the first time, the apple bloom had long since fallen, 
and the approach of summer had been heralded by sev- 
eral hot days that had successively grown hotter. I 
"stopped in the back yard of our home before crossing 
the fence that bounded the pasture, and climbed a pole 
that held aloft a box in which a pair of bluebirds nested. 
Inside it were two little ones. I took them carefully 
out of their nest, looked into their ugly open mouths 
and replaced them not less carefully. Then I descended 
and moved slowly onward, for I was ahead of time. 
Next I lingered on the edge of the pond that had 
been made by damming the ravine that crossed the back 
pasture. Muskrat holes were in abundance along the 
bank, and as I stood quietly, a head rose in the water 
near my feet, then disappeared as the timid creature 
caught sight of my intruding form. 

War was in my heart, but not war against the inno- 
cent. More than one rabbit hopped from cover and 
disappeared in the bushes as my foot crossed the briar 
patch beyond the pasture, but no stone followed. From 
the tip of a fence post on the right a male partridge 

279 



Stringtown on the Pike 

sang " Bob White ! " to his nesting mate hidden near by 
in the grass, and from the fence on my left came the 
answering cry of another partridge. Both birds were 
singing undisturbed when I passed from sight. Instinct, 
I suppose, led me to thrust a long pole into a hollow log 
in the thick woods that lay just beyond the briar patch, 
and to my surprise out came a snarling fuzzy opossum 
that when touched gently by the stick turned on its 
side, coiled itself into a ball, closed its eyes, raised its 
lips and laughed silently. I moved onward, leaving the 
grinning beast unharmed. Through these woods and 
then over the hill I passed, into the meadow, over the 
next ridge and down its side into Indian Hollow. As I 
turned the top of the last ridge I caught sight of a dis- 
tant form, that of a boy about my own size, who, 
mounting the opposing ridge, directed his steps down 
the slope toward the point I was approaching. It was 
Red-Head, my expected antagonist, who true to his 
agreement, met me in the ravine where tradition said 
rested the dead Indians. Not a word did either of us 
say as we slowly neared each other ; there was no 
necessity for words, we knew our errand. I wore a 
roundabout jacket, which, just before we met, I jerked 
off and threw upon the ground. But he, the vicious 
boy of recent days, folded his arms across his chest, 
lifted his head and made no aggressive movement. I 
raised my fists and prepared for the tussle, but instead 
of a like movement, he said : " Hit me in the face ; hit 
me hard ! " 

Nor did he yet make any offensive motion, neither did 
he offer to protect himself. " Hit me, I says ! Take 
thet club ! " (he pointed to a heavy stick.) " Beat me 
on the head ! " 

I gazed at him in amazement, but made no movement. 
280 



The Beginning of Love 

I was so near that as he spoke I felt his warm breath in 
my face. 

" I 'm a fool an' yo're afeard ! " he said. " Ef yo' 
war in my place an' me in yourn I 'd beat yo' down 
befoah a mi nit passed. I tell yo' I want ter be beat in 
the face, I want ter be knocked down, an' yo're afeard 
ter do et." 

" I did n't come here to beat a boy with folded arms ; 
I came to fight." 

" Yo' can't fight me. Not because I don't want ter 
fight, fer I do, but because I 've been a fool." 

" Why ? " 

" I promised not ter fight yo', but I did n't promise 
not ter show yo' thet I 'm not afeard of bein' hurt. I '11 
not strike back, but I dare yo' ter beat my head with the 
club. I wants ter git paid fer bein' a fool. I '11 not 
flinch. Hit me, I say." 

" I shall not do it. Who made you promise not to 
fight me ? " 

His eyes snapped. " Nobody made me, I don't allow 
no one ter make me do nuthin'. I jest promised not ter 
fight yo', an' I '11 do what I promised." 

" Whom did you promise ? " 

" Susie." 

He stood before me with folded arms, this wild moun- 
tain boy, my mortal enemy. "Susie begged me not ter 
fight yo', an' I promised. I 'm a fool, but not a 
coward." 

" Why did she beg this of you ? " 

" I don't know an' I don't care. She says thet I 
did n't do yo' fair when yo' offered ter stand by me in 
school. She 's a girl, an' she cried when I told her thet 
I intended ter thrash yo' ter-day, an' I promised not ter 
do et i but I hate yo' like sin, an' yo' hate me, an' I 

281 



Stringtown on the Pike 

know et. We '11 come tergether some day, yo' an' 
me. 

" You need n't talk so sure about whipping me," I 
replied. " You would have had to work before you 
thrashed me. I don't thank Susie for interfering any 
more than you do," I continued, " but if you can't fight 
me now I '11 not hit you now." He made a grimace at 
me and turned to depart. Disdain was in his eye, 
hatred was in his heart, but the wild beast had found his 
master in a little girl. 

I stood until he had passed over the hill ; not once 
did he glance back ; then as his head disappeared 
beneath its summit I sank upon the grass. A double 
sensation came over me; regret that the boy had met 
Susie was commingled with elation in the thought that 
she had endeavoured to prevent him from hurting me. 
Why should I have experienced either sensation ? But 
I did, and my mental argument was carried further. 
" Might not I have hurt him f " came next in the 
thought line ; " and might not her care have been for 
him P " 

Strange sensation that, the beginning of love ! I had 
previously thought of the girl as I would of any other 
person ; until now, only as I would of any other child ; 
but when my antagonist told me of her care for one of 
us two, and said that she extracted from him the promise 
not to fight, I hated him the more for that fact. I 
hated him now, strangely enough, because of Susie — 
the girl I had not seen for weeks, never in my life had 
tried to meet, and who had not even entered my thoughts 
since last we met. 

It seems almost like romance to say that love, such as 
sprang into my heart when my antagonist named that 
girl, could have had place in the soul of a child of my 

282 



The Beginning of Love 

age. When I came down that hillside to fight my an- 
tagonist I had no thought of love other than for my 
mother, and he whom I sought was but an enemy. 
When I passed back again along that same grassy slope 
he was not only an enemy but a rival, and I realised 
that I was in love with the outcast girl of Stringtown. 



283 



CHAPTER XLVII 

THE VOICE OF THE NIGHT 

THE war was long since over, peace had come to all 
the land. No armed men tramped our pike. 
The Blue and Grey had joined hands never to unclasp 
them. 

Persistently since Mose the Jew gave us that money 
had I begged to be permitted to leave the Stringtown 
school, but my mother shrank from the parting; and so I 
returned time and again to my accustomed place in the 
front row among the little boys. 

But finally a marvellous change came upon me, and, 
no longer a dumb child, I moved toward the advanced 
class of Stringtown. Possibly my previous dullness re- 
sulted from lack of expressive power, how else can one 
account for the sudden awakening of my intellect ? Can 
brain cells store up impressions that lie temporarily be- 
yond the will, but which are destined some day to open 
and become in an instant a fountain of stored knowledge ? 
Be this as it may, my mind opened to books, and lessons 
of the past came vividly before me. In one year I 
caught up with my old classmates in most studies, but 
never in all, for those twenty-six rules in Brown's gram- 
mar stood unlearned yet to shame me. My unexpected 
progress excited the admiration of the old professor, and 
at last he asked my mother to permit me to seek an 
education in the North. 

284 



The \''oice of the Night 

When, therefore, my mother finally agreed. Professor 
Drake arranged for me to enter a preparatory institution 
in one of the Northern States ; and finally I left String- 
town, a passenger on the old stage-coach. Securely 
pinned in an inner pocket of my shirt rested the amount 
of money necessary for tuition, board and incidental 
school expenses, and in another pocket-book, an old 
timer that as a boy I had usually carried empty except- 
ing a few reference cards and clippings of newspapers, 
was enough money to pay for my railroad ticket and my 
meals. Ignorant of the ways of the world, I started out 
in the world for an education, not schooling alone ; for 
while education consists partly in book lore, it more 
largely comprehends wisdom gained outside of books. 
Astute old Professor Drake ! Well did he recognise 
this fact. None knew better than he that so far as book 
study was concerned his Stringtown school offered ad- 
vantages sufficient to carry me several years further — 
yes, perhaps to the door of the University. 

I remember now that he once told mother in my 
presence that a boy should rub against others and become 
self-reliant ; that he should conquer homesickness and 
learn to stand alone in the world, and that it is best, if 
he be possessed of good habits and strength of character, 
that he should experience these things before he becomes 
a man. " A child may retrieve himself in case he makes 
an error ; a wise child is benefitted and profits by mis- 
takes. Give a boy a chance to use his mind, and then, 
if he errs, as he will, encourage him to correct the error 
and profit by the lesson." 

Prof. Drake had been entrusted with the secret of our 
new-found wealth, and he it was who spread the infor- 
mation concerning my prospective school plans, adroitly 
adding that an unknown friend contributed the scholar- 

285 



Stringtown on the Pike 

ship. Evidently he foresaw that busy neighbors would 
question aloud as to how the Widow Drew could afford 
to spend money enough to educate her son abroad ; and 
in order to quiet those " busybodies " he had assumed 
the " responsibility of the occasion." 

But before I tell of things that occurred after I left 
Stringtown that autumn, in my round-about jacket, my 
long, baggy trousers, my dress that from shoe to cap 
pictured the crude country boy, it is my duty to relate 
the incidents that occurred the day before I left my home. 

That day I bade all my friends in Stringtown farewell. 
Never since has parting from friend or home been to me 
so full of pathos. 

" Sammy," said the grocer as he thrust into my 
pocket a present, that was already tied neatly, thus 
showing that he had thought of my departure, " don't 
forget Stringtown." And then he squeezed my hand 
until the fingers ached. As though I could ever forget 
my old home ! 

Venerable Judge Elford held me long by the hand, 
looking me full in the face. " Child, it has been many 
years since my boy Charley went from our village to a 
college in Ohio ; he was about your age when he left 
Stringtown." Then his voice trembled, and he said no 
more. I knew the story of his boy ; there was no need 
for him to tell it. 

Nearing the home of Mr. Nordman, the old gentle- 
man on the pike south of Stringtown, I first caught 
sight of a boy on the fence by the side of the front 
gate. It was Red-Head. I drew near, he gazed in- 
tently up the pike, toward the south, and gave me no 
recognition. I opened the gate and closed it. I could 
have touched him had I cared to do so, but neither of 
us gave the other the greeting of a glance. 

286 




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The Voice of the Night 

« And so you start North to-morrow ? " said Mr. 
Nordman. 

« Yes." 

" My hat, child j come with me." I handed it to 
him, and together we walked through the house and 
down the back walk, back to the graveyard where stood 
a single shaft. " You're going North, my boy, and 
you'll hear hard words about your Southern friends. 
Say nothing back ; they of the North do not know us 
of the South ; say no hard word back. We're whipped, 
Sammy, but we were men. My own dear boy, who 
loved the North, rests on yon side of that shaft. He 
to whom the South was dear sleeps on the other side. 
God grows the grass alike over each ; the snowdrops 
bloom no earlier ; the roses' scent is no sweeter, over 
the one than over the other. The wah is over, child." 

The village clerk, Mr. Wagner, drew me down by 
his side as he seated himself on a bench. Alas ! his 
chair was long since whittled into bits. " Have you 
told us all good-bye, Sammy ? " he asked. 

« Not all, yet." 

He looked down a moment and whittled the stick he 
held in his hand. " Sammy," he said, " I have made 
one mistake in life, an honest man can make none 
greater. You will soon be old enough to know that to 
be happy you must be contented." 

I looked at him curiously, for the expression was a 
conundrum, while he whittled again ; then he stroked 
my chin gently with his lank forefinger, and next with 
the tips of his thumb and finger, he twitched a film of 
down that had appeared on my upper lip ; then he 
continued : 

" An old bachelor is not contented, Sammy. He's a 
misfit, and deserves the pity of mankind, and if he's 

287 



Stringtown on the Pike 

honest he won't deny it. It don't make any difference 
how he dresses, what he eats or drinks, he's only a 
human fragment, and if he don't say it openly he knows 
that it's true. Be a man, Sammy, and when you fall in 
love, as you will, tell your sweetheart you love her ; 
then, when you are able to support her, marry her and 
live contentedly and respectably." The lank clerk 
heaved a deep sigh, but I made no answer. We parted 
and that sigh sounds yet in my ears when I think of 
Mr. Wagner. 

So I went from end to end of Stringtown, bidding 
one and another farewell, getting blessings and advice — 
curious forms of advice and strange blessings. 



288 



CHAPTER XLVIII 

THE WEIRD FORM AGAINST THE SKY 

THE years passed, and finally a well-formed and 
well-informed young man, I came home on top 
of the same old bus, driven by the same driver. Now 
I was ready to start out into the world to make a living, 
and I will add that a position had been offered me in a 
college well-known throughout our land, the position of 
assistant to the professor of chemistry. 

The bus was late the afternoon I came home for the 
last time from school. The driver called me mister now 
and spoke in a formal manner that I did not like. For 
the first time I appreciated that I was no longer the 
Sammy Drew of former years. In deference to my 
request, he checked his team before my mother's door, 
where I alighted ; before that time I should not have 
presumed to ask that favour, nor would he have granted 
it to little Sammy Drew. 

I experienced a strange sensation that afternoon, for 
it seemed as though Stringtown no longer possessed me 
as a part of herself. I felt like a visitor. The houses, 
too, were surely very much smaller than when first I 
knew them ; the pavements more narrow, the flat stones 
of the walks were uneven and very rough ; strange that 
I had never before observed this last fact. A group of 
boys looked up at me as I passed ; without a word of 
recognition they resumed their marble playing. I then 
felt a mental depression ; for on that very spot but a 
19 289 



Stringtown on the Pike 

few years before, playing marbles, I kneeled in the dirt, 
a boy of Stringtown known to every other boy and 
knowing every boy. Again my heart sank, and yet 
again and again, as recurring incidents or new objects 
thrust upon me the fact that four years of absence may 
produce great changes in a village if the absent one was 
once really a part of the village. Only the person who 
looks with a stranger's eye will say that change comes 
not to human homes and human hearts in a sleepy vil- 
lage that seems to the indifferent observer to stand 
unchanged as decade after decade passes. Stringtown 
was no longer Stringtown to me, neither was I now a 
part of Stringtown's people. " Mr. Drew " and " Sam- 
uel " fell on my ears and grated on them, but there were 
a few exceptions ; to some persons I was still Sammy. 
The man who first used that familiar term was Judge 
Elford. He took me by the hand and looked me in the 
face. " Sammy," he said, "you did not get into trouble 
and did not send for me, as I feared you might and 
asked you to do in case you needed me ; you have my 
admiration. A splendid record you have made, but the 
end is not in sight ; you may yet require my advice. 
Remember, Sammy, you promised to follow it when the 
time arrives." 

I wandered into the pasture the next evening to watch 
the sun go down. First, the contact part of a cloud 
bank toward which I walked was tinted with a silver 
sheen, then as his form passed down behind the black 
body a ribbon of silver formed upon the undulating 
upper edge, a narrow border that from the earth on 
either side where cloud met horizon followed in veriest 
detail its uplifted undulations until the edge was all aglow 
in silver. The shadows fell about me as I still walked 
toward the cloud, following a path that led into the west. 

290 



The Weird Form against the Sky 

The ribbon of changing colours faded out, and a strange, 
gloomy twilight seemed to fall upon me, although I 
knew that the sun had not yet touched the horizon and 
that the darkness was premature. Then deep down in 
the cloud, from a slender crevice that formed on the 
instant, a silver ray burst forth and, lighting up a spot of 
earth, illumined a motionless female form, before unseen, 
a form that in the sunburst I saw was that of Susie ; but 
no longer a child, for the fleeting years had brushed the 
child away. 

And then the ray of sunshine lifted, swept gracefully 
across the heavens as does a mighty searchlight, and 
glancing fell agam to the earth, striking now the hill 
before me ; but between the two earth touches the sil- 
ver changed to red, and with the crimson came tinted 
shadows that played about the spot where rested now 
the red sun ray. But to these I gave no further notice ; 
for from where I stood in the valley I saw uprise upon 
the summit of the hill a form that seemed more than 
twice human height. But a moment shone the red glare, 
for night settled quickly down, leaving only the outline 
of that form against the uprising cloud bank. Then 
curious movements possessed the sky picture , the erect 
form changed to that of a bent figure ; the hands and 
arms moved strangely out and in, and at one time, with 
outstretched arm leaned forward, pointing into the valley 
beyond, where lay the Stringtown graveyard. Nor was 
that form alone, for an object heretofore unseen sped 
from near him and flitted along the path. But as it did 
so the upright figure uttered a cry, shrill, wild, like that 
of a savage. As the cry struck the air, the small crea- 
ture scampered back affrighted and clasped his little arms 
tightly about the long legs of the erect being, whatever 
it might have been. Too old was I now to fear goblin 

291 



Stringtown on the Pike 

or ghost, too skeptical had I become to believe in spook 
of any kind, else I should have turned and fled from the 
spot J for it seemed as though that picture against the 
sky could not be natural. Then while yet I gazed the 
form suddenly fell to the ground and disappeared from 
sight ; and as it did so a wild cry floated to my ear, fol- 
lowed by a laugh that might have been human, but which 
seemed not like any other laugh my ear had ever heard. 
Then came silence. 

Instead of turning back, as once I should have done, 
I started forward, following the path in the meadow 
toward the summit of the hill ; but when I neared the 
spot where once had stood the apparition nothing could 
be seen. Too dark was it now to distinguish objects. I 
lingered a moment and then strode on, when my foot 
struck a soft obstacle in the path. I stooped and reached 
down. My hands surely touched the form of a child — 
my fingers followed the bare legs and feet, then passed 
over the face of a child. Raising the little form in my 
arms, I moved to the right, toward the spot where on 
the hill I had seen the girl standing in the silver light. 



292 



CHAPTER XLIX 

SUSIE, RED-HEAD, AND SAMUEL DREW 

AGAIN in the night I stood before the cabin of 
Cupe, where I hesitated a moment before the 
door. I dreaded to meet the superstitious old negro. 
The experience of that first night, when, a child, I ran 
terrified into the open door, the incident that occurred 
during the second nocturnal visit, when the strange night 
voice spoke twice in my ear, coupled with the cold re- 
ception that he gave me then, led me to hesitate before 
again entering that abode. And then I remembered 
that he had predicted my coming thrice in the night, and 
I had vowed that I would not do so. I felt now an an- 
tagonism toward him not only on account of his having 
involved me in his superstitions, but also because his 
predictions had been partly verified. For the third time, 
notwithstanding my assertion never to do so again, I 
stepped out of the night into the cabin of Cupe, who 
seemed not at all surprised at my entrance. 

" Brung de gem'n a cheer, Dinah." 

" Don't concern yourself about me. Uncle Cupe ; see 
what can be done for this child," and I laid the boy on 
the bed. 

Breath was in the little form, the muscles twitched, the 
limbs moved convulsively, the hands closed and opened 
irresponsively. Each muscle seemed to be awaiting its 
turn to contract and relax, " De chile hab be'n in pain, 
suah," said Cupe. I knew nothing about how the child 

293 



Stringtown on the Pike 

was hurt or how he came to be where I found him. To 
me the mystery was as to how he could have shrunk in 
size. When I saw him on the hilltop he stood lank and 
tall. When I stumbled over his form in the path he 
had contracted to the little boy before us. Still, these 
thoughts were of secondary importance now ; the child 
needed help, and I knew nothing about how to give it. 
Not so Cupe, who quickly opened the waist, directing 
me to rub the limbs and body with the palms of my 
hands. He ordered Dinah to make a hot drink, and 
from a flat bottle that he drew from some secret place he 
prepared a toddy that in teaspoonful doses was slowly 
poured into the mouth of the child, who automatically 
swallowed it. Under the combined influence of the 
stimulant, the hot tea, and the friction, the little one 
opened its eyes and regained consciousness. The limbs 
now ceased contracting, the twitching muscles were 
quieted, and the eyes opened. Listlessly the boy lay on 
the bed, rolling his eyes, then I observed Cupe's de- 
portment toward myself, and contrasted therewith the 
severity of his demeanour when last I came to his cabin. 
Now he seemed intent on serving me; he spoke respect- 
fully and with great deference ; before, he had been 
domineering and insolent. " Foah yeahs hab pass', 
Ma'se Samuel, an' at las' yo' hab come back t' String- 
town. An' how does de ole town look t' yo' now ? " 

I remembered the prediction he had made concerning 
the change that time might bring in my affections for the 
village, — a change that I now realised had already to an 
extent occurred. 

" I find many changes in Stringtown," I answered. 

" An' am yo' suah de changes am not in yo'selb ? " 
Then, without waiting for me to answer, he added : 
" How 'bout de gearls ? Hab yo' foun' a sweetheaht in 
de Norf ? " 294 



Susie, Red-Head, and Samuel Drew 

" I have not, Cupe. I told you that I should come 
back in four years, — see — " I drew from an inner 
pocket the metal case that he had handed me when, four 
years since, he pushed me out of the cabin into the night. 
" I carry this with me, Cupe." 

Before he could reply came a knock on the door, and 
without waiting to be ushered in the intruder lifted the 
latch and entered. 

The Red-Head Boy of Nordman, but no longer a 
boy. Tall and lank, at least a head taller than myself, 
he stood before us lithe and supple, red-faced and impu- 
dent. I sat by the bed rubbing the forehead of the 
child, who had, as yet, said not a word. But as his eyes 
fell upon the face of the intruder his form shrank as if 
struck by a sudden blow, and with a cry as if of pain he 
threw his arm about my neck and sobbed convulsively. 
Then it flashed upon me that the tall form I had seen on 
the hill was that of Red-Head, and, connecting therewith 
the present movements of the frightened child, I reasoned 
that the intruder had been the cause of his suffering. 
Indignation possessed me. Tearing the clasped arms of 
the child from my neck, I thrust him upon the bed and 
faced the new-comer, who stood full a head taller than 
myself; but this fact gave me no concern. " And you 
it is," I said, " who delight in frightening helpless 
children, you who stoop your head when you enter a 
door ? " 

He sneered, but did not answer, 

" Out of this house ! " I pointed to the door, but he 
made no movement. I sprang toward him, and tried to 
strike his face ; he drew his head back, stepped aside, 
and I passed him by. Turning suddenly, I sprang again 
at the intruder, viciously striking at him with my fist ; 
he artfully evaded the blow, and, reaching out his lank 

295 



Stringtown on the Pike 

arm, grasped one of my wrists and then the other. The 
strong lad held my two wrists in one hand, and with his 
ugly countenance close to my eyes, laughed in my face ; 
then giving me a sudden twirl, he sent me spinning to 
the farther side of the room, I was frenzied now, and 
knew not what I did. That leering face and sarcastic 
laugh were more exasperating than a blow of the fist 
would have been. It was evident that he could have 
beaten me to the floor had he cared to do so, and the 
fact that I had been spared was humiliating. The devil 
possessed me, and realising that I could not cope with 
him fist to fist, I sought a weapon, and found it in the 
form of Cupe's double-barrelled shot-gun that stood in 
the corner to which he had hurled me. I grasped it, 
and, with my back in the corner, raised and pointed it 
toward him, when a form burst from out the door at the 
back of the room. It was Susie. Had she been a sec- 
ond later I would have pulled the trigger ; I shuddered 
as I dropped the butt of the gun on the floor, for she 
stood in the line between Red-Head and myself, and I 
realised how near I had come to firing the weapon as 
she stepped in the line of sight. Susie, with the eyes of 
Susie of old, but not exactly the same face, and surely 
not the form of the wild girl I knew four years ago. A 
more matured expression of countenance, a womanly fig- 
ure, had replaced the face and form of the girl, yet had 
brushed away no charm or grace the girl possessed. She 
stood motionless before me in the lamplight. A wild 
rose had been placed in the bosom of her gown, another 
graced her hair ; these, when last I knew her, she would 
not have worn as she wore them now. 

" The gun is loaded," she said. " Is it murder they 
teach boys in Ohio ? " Abashed, I placed the weapon 
back in the corner while she turned to Cupe. " Uncle 

296 



Susie, Red-Head, and Samuel Drew 

Cupe, you must answer for this ! I '11 not have such 
things done in my house ! " 

" 'Deed, Missus, an' I couldn' help de boys come'n, 
need'ah could I help 'em fight'n." 

She turned to Red-Head. 

" And you ? " 

" Did n't fight. Thet feller tried ter fight, but I 
would n't. He 'd hev shot me too ef yo' hed n't come. 
Ask Cupe ? " 

" You need not ask Cupe, ask me," I broke in. " Red- 
Head tells the truth. I tried to fight and could not. 
He is stronger than I am, and he knows it. I have 
been poring over books, he has been running through the 
fields and woods. I have been sitting before a desk, he 
has been exercising his muscles all day long. I have 
been developing my brain, he has been developing his 
frame and body. I 'm a fool for giving him a chance to 
show me that I am weak and that he is strong in brute 
strength. I have acted the dunce in trying to strike 
him with my fist. It must be brain against muscle 
hereafter, Susie, and when brain meets muscle, brain 
always wins. I assure you that I shall not fail again 
when the time comes for me to strike him down. I 
shall not fist fight him, though ; he can go his way, I 
shall go mine." 

" Then, Mr. Drew, there '11 be no fight, for he 
promised me long ago not to hurt you." 

" So be it, Susie." 

" But de sign say dey mus' be de deff ob each uddah," 
mumbled Cupe. '- Et say dat de Red-Head Boy '11 die 
sudden, an' dat yo' an Susie '11 be de cause ; an' dat 
yo' 11 die sudden, an' dat de Red-Head Boy an' Susie '11 
be de cause." 

" Thar 'II always be two sides ter the path we meet 
297 



Stringtown on the Pike 

on," said Red-Head, addressing me. " Yo' keep ter the 
right, an' I '11 keep ter the right. Thar 's room ter look 
about without looking at each other, and thar 's room ter 
whistle, ef we can't keep our mouths shet when we 
meets on the same path." 

" So be it, but mind that you keep to the right," I 
answered. He left the cabin, without a word of fare- 
well to any one. 

The child rested on the bed, asleep. " Susie," I said, 
" I am ashamed of having fought Red-Head in your home, 
but he tortured that little child near to death, and I 
could not help doing it. My temper got the upper 
hand of my judgment. Will you pardon me ? " 

" Red-Head is wild and meant no harm, I am sure," 
she replied. " He speaks softly to me, he shows me 
many kindnesses ; his face is red, his hair is red, but 
through no fault of his own. He loves the country, he 
loves the hills, and valleys, the woods and vines and 
flowers." 

"And yet he tortures children. Miss Susie." Never 
before had I said Afiss to her, and as I did so now she 
flushed. I saw the flush — it shaded her face until the 
hue of the cheek touched that of the petals of the wild 
sweet briar on her bosom. 

" He is uneducated," she replied, " and needs sym- 
pathy, not blows. You say that he tortured the child 
— are you certain that he did ? Mind you not the day he 
stood by my side in the Stringtown school and defended 
me, a helpless girl ? Do you think, Mr. Samuel, that I 
was not tortured then ? " 

" Did I not also stand by you, did I not offer him my 
hand and ask that our past enmity be forgotten, did I 
not take your part then, Susie ? " 

" Yes," she said, and her eyes dropped. " Yes,but — " 
298 



Susie, Red-Head, and Samuel Drew 

« But what ? " 

" You came second." 

It was my turn to flush. It was true that I did go 
second to her side then, seemingly I still stood second. 
And then my heart thumped, for the first time I knew 
how deeply I loved this girl, who argued so naturally in 
behalf of my antagonist. 

" Mr. Drew," she continued, " I am nobody but 
Susie. I have been taught by my guardian, Mr. Wag- 
ner, and Professor Drake, and expect to go to college, so 
that you perceive I am not as wild as I should have 
been had you not begged me to take the education ; still 
I am ' Susie Nobody,' and I live in the cabin with Cupe 
and Dinah. You helped me escape absolute ignorance, 
and for your kindness in guiding me as you did I sin- 
cerely thank you. Yes," she continued, " in behalf of 
two persons do I thank you." 

" Who else, Susie ? " 

"Red-Head. He is not the vicious lad he would 
have been had I grown up as rude as I might have 
done." 

I bit my lip. " Susie," I said " I hate that name ; 
I wish no thanks for him, nor will I take any." 

" I give them on my own account j I do not hate the 
name," she answered. Then there came over me a 
sudden impulse to tell her that I loved her. " Susie," I 
said eagerly, " listen. There was something I wanted 
to say four years ago. I did not say it then. I must 
say it now. Susie, I — " 

I caught her hand. She did not resist nor with- 
draw it. 

" Missus," broke in Cupe stepping to the girl's side, 
" de young Ma'se Samuel mus' be tired ob standin' so 
long. 'Scuse de ole man, but de muddah ob de chile 

299 



Stringtown on the Pike 

on de bed '11 worry monstrous much lessen et be toted 
home. Ef de young ma 'se will break ofF de conber- 
sashun, Cupe '11 go 'long wid him t' Stringtown t' 
tote de chile." 

The interruption angered me, it was obviously inten- 
tional. I recalled how twice before he had prevented 
me from speaking as I had just been about to speak. 
But the interruption had been made and Susie had left 
me ; for she turned to the bed, where she gently stroked 
the child's forehead. " Yes," she said, " Uncle Cupe 
is right. The little one should be taken to its home." 
In a few moments the slender form, still asleep, was 
carried forth, its head resting on the shoulder of the 
negro. Before leaving the cabin, however, I lingered 
a second, a second longer than I would have done had 
the occupant been other than Susie ; just a second 
longer than I might have done had it been any other 
girl did I hold her hand in mine, and as I dropped it 
I asked : 

*' May I come again ? " 

" Why not ? " she answered. " This is Kentucky." 
She took the wild sweet briar from her hair and handed 
it to me. 

"Thank you, Susie," I said. " May I not also have 
the other ? " and I pointed to the rose in her bosom. 

" That is for Red-Head — perhaps," she replied. 



300 



CHAPTER L 

cupe's threat 

CUPE was old when first I knew him, but he seemed 
no older and no more decrepit now than then. 
With the boy over his shoulder he took the lead that 
night, asking no help, and held it until the village was 
reached. He was very sullen. Every attempt on my 
part to engage him in conversation resulted in utter 
failure ; he would not talk. So in communion with 
myself I followed at his heels. 

Before reaching the place where the negro should leave 
Stringtown we drew near the house of Mr. Wagner. 
Although it was late, a light shining through the window 
of the front room indicated that the village clerk had 
not yet retired. 

" Ma'se Sammy," broke in my companion, " Cupe 
hab a word t' say t' Ma'se Wagnah, an '11 be obleeged ef 
yo' '11 stop a minit an' heah de conbersashun." 

He turned into the little yard, knocked on the door, 
and together we were ushered into the room, where, as 
has been related, many years before he had stood with 
the heavy box of coin and the manuscript of Susie's 
mother. I was invited to seat myself, and did so, but 
Cupe remained standing. 

" Ma'se Wagnah," he said, "yo' min' de day in de 
yeah gone by when yo' come t' Cupe's cabin an' tole 
him how es de Co'ht had made yo' de guardyen ob de 
little Susie gearl ? " 

301 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Yes, Cupe, very well." 

" Min' yo' de trouble de gearl yocasioned yo', an' dat 
de jedge say she could stay wid Cupe till de time come 
fo' her t' lebe der cabin ob her brack fren's ? " 

" Yes." 

" She wah es full ob fun an' sunshine es a bee tree es 
ob honey, an' she keered nuffin 'bout no one but de ole 
brack fo'ks. She hab be'n like honey ebah sense. She 
wah a spritely gearl, Ma'se Wagnah, a little ting, but 
now she stan' tall an' supple." 

" Go on, Cupe." 

" When de little gearl use t' sing, et wah loud like de 
fiel' lark, an' when she dance', et wah keerless like wid 
her gahments. But now she doan dance no moah befo' 
de cabin doah, an' when she sing, et am sof an' hum- 
min', like de tu'tle dove." 

Again he stopped. " Go on," said Mr. Wagner. 

" An' when de pert chile use t' gaddah de flowahs in 
de spring, she bunch 'em in her han' an' den put 'em in 
a glass ob watah on de table ; but now she doan bunch 
de flowahs no moah, she jes pick one er two wil' roses 
an' stick 'em in her ha'r er in her busum. Et am a 
monstrous change, Ma'se Wagnah." Now his voice 
sunk very low. " An' when de boys roam obah de 
Ian' dey use t' hunt in de woods an' skate an' swim in 
de pond an' drink out ob de spring down by de milk 
house. But now dey go by de spring t' stop monstrous 
ofFen at de cabin fo' a cup t' git a drink ob watah, er t' 
ax some fool quistion what doan mean nuffin, er t' act 
up one way er 'nuddah." He looked at me. " Mon- 
strous little uxcuse et takes t' bring 'em t' de cabin now. 
Two ob em come t'-night, an' Susie she lingah in her 
room t' fix up befo' she come out." 

" Well, Cupe, what must I do ? " 
302 



Cupe's Threat 



" Et 's time de gearl lef' de cabin ; Lawd knows dat 
Cupe an' Dinah lubs her moah 'n all de worl', but de 
gearl's place now es wid de white fo'ks. Take her 
back, Ma'se Wagnah ; fo' de good ob de honey chile, 
take her back ! " 

" I understand, Cupe. You feel that she has grown 
beyond your care." 

" Et makes de nigger sad t' say et." 

" I '11 see Judge Elford and arrange at once for her 
future. She is a bright girl and should go away to 
school." 

" Min' yo' de readin' ob de papah her muddah wrote ? " 

" Yes." 

" She doan wan' t' go t' school, ner t' go t' any home 
t' live outen she hab de name she 'titled to." 

" That paper carries no evidence that the Court could 
use to give her the name of her father." 

" An' mus' she be ' Nigger Susie ' always ? " 

" She will be only Susie until she marries." 

" Yo' know, Ma'se Wagnah, dat ole Ma'se Manley, 
who die so sudden, wah her fahdah. Yo' know he libed 
a monstrous good life heah es fo'ks b'lebed, but de kin'- 
heahted man died s'prisin' sudden. Had he lived longah, 
he might hab give' de chile de name she 's 'titled to. 
Et's a pity he died so early." 

Mr. Wagner shook his head. 

" Ef Susie caint hab her name, de name ob de Man- 
ley gearls shall stan' disgrace'," said the earnest negro. 
" Ef de debbil es t' foller de deah chile, he '11 stick 
his fingahs into de ha'r ob de uddah gearls too. Ef yo' 
caint gib Susie her name, Cupe '11 brung shame t' dem." 

" Beware, Cupe ! " said the now disturbed man. 
" You intend to do right, but will surely accomplish 
mischief." 

303 



Stringtown on the Pike 

"When Cupe went t' Canerdy, he went by de town 
what de writin' ob Susie's muddah tole 'bout. He stop 
t' see de man ole Aunt Sukey knowed, Aunt Sukey who 
saw Ma'se Manley wid de muddah ob Susie, Cupe 
paid de lawyers fo' gittin' all de fac's, he hab de swohn 
papahs, he hab de ev'dence ob de New Yo'k Co'ht es t' 
Ma'se Manley. Cupe doan mean no mischief, but ef 
de Susie chile caint git her name, he '11 raise de debbil 
wid de name ob Manley." He turned to the door, but 
before going delivered this parting shot : " De New 
Yo'k jedge said dat in New Yo'k ef a man libed wid a 
woman in open es ef dey wah married, dey am married. 
De lawyer's common marriage, he called et. Dat ef a 
chile wah bohn t' dem, et wah his chile an' titled t' his 
name an' his money too. Dat de deed wah fact ef de 
proof ob de deed wah suah. An' Cupe hab all de proof 
in brack writin', even t' de swarin' ob Aunt Sukey an' 
ob de New Yo'k jedge. Ef Ma'se Manley hab any 
chile 'titled t' his name, et am Susie" 

" For God's sake, keep your mouth shut, Cupe ! I 
shall consult Judge Elford at once about this matter." 

" Bettah yo' let no grass grow undah yoah feet, Ma'se 
Wagnah, fo' Cupe am gittin' monstrous ole, an' doan 
'tend t' die an' lebe de gearl widout de name she 's 
'titled to." 

" Mr. Wagner," I said, " this is all strange to me. I 
catch part of Cupe's meaning, but much of it is obscure. 
Still, I take it that Mr. Manley, who died by a paralytic 
stroke, was the father of Susie." 

" Yes, she is his child. He was followed to Ken- 
tucky by the girl's mother, who left the baby in charge 
of Cupe's master, Mr. Hardman, the half-brother of Mr. 
Manley. Do not, however, speak of the fact you have 
learned, the secret is to be well kept if Susie is to be 

304 



Cupe's Threat 



protected. A simple statement of fact cannot serve her 
interests, while it can bring sorrow and shame to many 
others." 

" Mr. Wagner, when I left Stringtown to go to school 
you gave me some advice. You told me that when I 
found the girl I loved, I should tell her so. I am now 
of age and in a fair way to make a living. 1 love Susie 
with all my heart. I cast no blame on her for the shame 
her father wrought. Upon the contrary, I now despise 
the name of the man who wronged her, and 1 love her 
none the less. I am willing to share my name if she 
will accept it. Give her a good education, I beg of 
you, do your duty as her guardian, and look to me to 
furnish the name she needs. That is — " I hesitated. 

"What?" 

" If she will share it." 

" Cupe knows," I added, and turned to address the 
old man, but he had silently slipped away ; only Mr. 
Wagner and myself were present. The negro had 
gone from the room either before or after my declara- 
tion was made, I knew not which. He had left us with 
the expressed threat to " raise the devil with the name of 
Manley." 



305 



CHAPTER LI 

THE MAGIC MIRROR 

SLEEP did not readily come to my eyes that night, 
and the snatches of slumber brought little rest. 
Distressing dreams that seemed to be joined to not less 
painful periods of waking possessed me. When morn- 
ing broke I arose fatigued and with swollen eyes. My 
mother perceived that something weighed upon my 
mind, and suggested that I might not be well ; but I 
passed the matter lightly. Although painful dreams 
came to me all that night, I remembered but one in- 
cident, wherein occurred a question : " What is the 
object of life ? " 

Memory of the scenes of the previous evening and 
the threat of Cupe concerning the Manleys disturbed 
me. I feared that he might carry his threat into im- 
mediate execution, and I will add that I now felt not 
only a personal concern, but a legitimate right to inter- 
fere. With this thought in mind, I started for his cabin 
without any well-formulated plan of action. But it was 
not to meet Susie that I went this time to the home of 
the dead Corn Bug. I intended to talk with the old 
negro, and for the once I hoped to find the girl absent. 

My object being to discover something further con- 
cerning the past life of his charge and to tell Cupe 
that by reason of my conference with Mr. Wagner, her 
guardian, I had, to a degree, assumed a personal respon- 
sibility concerning her future. I will admit, also, that 

306 



The Magic Mirror 

I was ao-grieved over the manner in which the old slave 

DO 

had treated me on the two occasions in which I had 
been prevented from telling the girl that my thought 
was for her, and I now proposed not only to inform him 
of my intention, but to give him to understand that I 
should submit to no further impertinence in this direc- 
tion. " Neither has the old fool," I said to myself, " a 
right longer to thrust on me his negro superstitions ! " 

As I reflected in detail over the manner in which he 
had played upon my childish credulity, and had even 
made me take part in his incantations, I felt both indig- 
nant and humiliated. " I '11 have no more of it," I 
said, and in this mood reached the cabin. No signs of 
life were to be seen about the place, no dog curled before 
the step, no Dinah, Cupe nor Susie. I knocked on the 
door, and imagined that I heard a sound within, but 
the door remained closed and no voice bade me enter. 
Then I stepped to the window ; it was close curtained. 
I walked around the dwelling, to find that with one 
exception the other windows were also draped. The 
exception was the room in the new addition to the 
cabin, the room of Susie, but that, too, was unoccupied 
and the door leading from it into the cabin was closed. 
A moment I stood there studying with my eyes the 
scene within. Simple, indeed, were the home surround- 
ings of this girl, and yet in good taste. A picture cut 
from a magazine, a home-made ornament worked by 
girlish hands, a few knick-knacks, such as she might 
cherish, and an assortment of books that astonished me. 
History, science, art, literature ! I knew the works, 
some of them, others as yet I had not seen. Admiration 
for the girl had previously possessed me, now I knew 
that it had not been misplaced. 

This was all I saw — with one exception — that of 
307 



Stringtown on the Pike 

the pencil drawing of a young man — my own face 
surely — conspicuous in a rustic frame on the little 
dresser near the window. Evidently the sketch was by 
Susie; and slipped into the frame was a rose, a dried 
wild rose. As I pressed my face to the glass of the 
little window of the room a sense of shame came over 
me ; my action unmanly. " Forgive me, Susie," I said 
to myself, " I 'm a churl, a sneak ! " and in this mood I 
passed back to the front door. 

I was convinced that the home could not be deserted, 
for seldom, if ever, did all the occupants of a negro 
cabin leave the premises unguarded, and I questioned 
then as to whether from a distance I had not been 
observed ; and naturally I inferred that my unbidden 
company was distasteful, and that Cupe had taken this 
means to teach me that my visits were not to be con- 
tinued. " The impertinent old fanatic," I thought ; 
" to what end may he not carry his superstitions, born 
of ignorance and bred in arrogance ? " I raised an axe 
handle that stood beside the doorway and beat the heavy 
oak door as though to splinter it. I made the old house 
ring, for with each blow I grew angrier and thought 
meaner things, I who had no right to even question the 
reason of the action of any occupant of that home. 
Then, as I rested, the door opened and Cupe stood 
before me. No smirk on his countenance now, no 
welcome smile, no courtesy and bow. 

" Yo' Stringtown boy from de Norf, ain't dah room 
nuff outside fo' yo' t' walk ? " Then without waiting 
a reply, he added : " De Susie gearl's not in de cabin." 
He closed the door in my face. 

Never before had I known an old-time negro to do 
such an act as this ; hospitality was born and cultivated 
in the hearts of the old Southern home slave, and for 

308 



The Magic Mirror 

Cupe to behave in this manner was unpardonable. I 
raised the axe handle, and with both hands grasping the 
shaft, struck such a vicious blow on the door as to 
benumb my fingers and jar the stick from my grasp. 
The door, strong as it was, could stand few such attacks 
as that, and I presume Cupe reaHsed the fact, for once 
more he threw it open, stepped to one side and awaited 
my entrance. I lost no time in accepting the opportun- 
ity ; the negro closed the door immediately, and I ob- 
served that he bolted it too, for I heard the draw of the 
iron bar. I heard it, I say, for although the sun was 
shining brightly outside there was no ray of light within. 
Absolute darkness prevailed. 

" I tole yo' de Susie gearl am not t' home." 

" I came to talk to ^yoz/," I answered, coolly, " not to 
see Susie." 

" De time am not 'pitious an' de mannah ob de 
come'n am not perlite. Doan yo' see de doah am 
slow t' open ? De sign am bad, I tole yo'." 

*' Shut up about your signs and incantations. Never 
let me hear you mention them again. I wish no more 
of them." 

*' An' ef yo' wish no moah, why doan yo' keep 'way. 
Hab Cupe ebah gone t' hunt yo' up an' shove 'em down 
yoah froat ? Doan yo' always come t' Cupe, an' doan 
yo' start de spell ? De twine ob de spell am tangled 
'bout de feet ob Cupe an' Dinah and Red-Head an' Susie 
an' yo'selb. An' yo' am de one who did de act ob de 
tangle. But Cupe would n't care ef de sweet gearl wah 
free ; de sign twine might be 'bout de necks ob yo' two 
boys. Did n't yo' start de spell, I axes ? " 

I felt the justice of the rebuke, but was determined to 
have my say. " I 'm tired of all this foolishness." 

" De doah am b'hin' yo', an' de way am cleah t' de 
^ 309 



Stringtown on the Pike 

sunshine ; shall Cupe open et an' let yo' out ? Yo' hain't 
got no invite t' stay." 

" I tell you I came to talk with you.'''' 

Then I felt an object touch my knees. " Take de 
cheer an' do yoah talkin' moah comf'ble." 

I sought the back of the chair with my hand, found it 
and seated myself. " Cupe, why don't you light up 
your room ? raise the curtain." 

" Yo' come t' talk 'bout fool signs, Cupe hab de con- 
bersashun in him eah ; go on wid de talk, fo' de eah 
doan need no light." 

I felt somewhat disturbed. The absence of the 
women, the mysterious movements of the negro, his 
well-known fanaticism and his methods were not calcu- 
lated to enliven me ; besides, this absolute darkness, 
when it should have been light, was depressing. 

'' Cupe, since I came to this cabin as a child I have 
been imposed upon more than once by your superstitions. 
You led me to expect to fight Red-Head, and the men- 
tal impression you made on my young mind induced me 
to hate him. I presume that you accomplished the 
same end with Red-Head. You led the unsuspecting 
girl Susie to look forward to trouble that was coming 
between us two boys, and she, too, became involved in 
your silly signs. You must stop this nonsense now." 

" An' yo' doan b'lebe in de sign \ " 

" No." 

" When de chicken cock crow at midnight, am et a 
sign dat mahn'n '11 come .? " 

" No." 

" Do yo' ebah know a mahn'n not t' come ahftah de 
crowin' ob de chicken ? " 

"You old fool." 

" Yo' say yo' doan b'lebe in signs ? " 
310 



The Magic Mirror 

" No." 

" Yo' b'lebe in de alm'nac ? " 

" Yes." 

'' De 'clipses, de da'k an' de light ob de moon, 
'cordin' t' de alm'nac, am right ? " 

" Yes ; they are predicted by calculation." 

"Yo' b'lebe what yo' see written in de alm'nac 
book ? " 

« Yes." 

" Cupe '11 ask yo' t' read a page fo' t' let him see ef 
de Susie gearl kin read es apt es she might." 

He lighted a candle, and took from near the fireplace 
a Farmers' and Mechanics' Almanac; clumsily fingering 
the pages, he thrust the open book before my face. 
" Read de wo'ds ob de alm'nac an' tole me what de 
gem'n what write et say. He am not bery p'lite in de 
pictah, an' he seems t' be pow'ful much hurt jes below 
de ribs." I glanced at the page and over the well- 
known illustration read, " Signs of the Zodiac." 

Cupe chuckled, " An' yoah book ob fac's am a 
sign book. Bettah yo' say nuffin moah 'bout Cupe. 
De book say de moon '11 change, an' suah de sign yo' 
read in de book am good, fo' de moon do change. Et 
say de 'clipses '11 come, an' de sign am good, fo' dey do 
come. What yo' see in de book am good, an' Cupe 
sahtify t' de fac', but what Cupe kin see wid his eyes an' 
heah wid his eahs am jes es good es alm'nac signs." 
Suddenly changing the subject of the discussion, he 
asked : 

" Doan yo' meet de Red-Head Boy es Cupe p'dicted \ " 

"Yes." 

" Doan yo' two boys fight ? " 

"Yes." 

" Doan de Susie gearl come betwixt yo' ? '* 
311 



Stringtown on the Pike 

« Yes, but — " 

But without heeding me the negro added : " An' 
did n't Cupe p'dict de come'n ob dem all ? " 

" You guessed some things, I will admit." 

" An' so does de alm'nac book guess some tings. 
But Cupe doan guess. He sees 'em all, he knows 
moah'n he tells, an' he kin tell moah 'bout yo' dan yo' 
tells too." 

" Tell me something I know that has happened and 
not been told." 

'' Yo' stood in de city by de stone wall wid de carpet- 
bag at yoah feet an' met de long-haired man. Yo' went 
wid him t' de play-house. Yo' los' yoah money, an' 
den yo' go an' stan' on de bridge lookin' down in de 
watah, an' yo' come monstrous neah jurnyin' down into 
de ribbah. But yo' could n't jump, fo' de end ob de 
spell wah not den. Yo' did n't tole no man 'bout de 
'sperience yo' meet in de big city, an' yo' doan 'tend t' 
tole no man, ner yo' doan wan' Cupe t' tole no man." 

" You old devil," I said indignantly, " how did you 
find out these things ? " 

" I read 'em in de glass, I see 'em wid my eyes, I 
heah de conbersashun wid my eahs es easy es I talk t' 
yo' now. Yo' look in de alm'nac book fo' de sign, an' 
yo' doan git much but moon an' 'clipses. Cupe see de 
movin' ob de past an' de come'n ob de future, an' yo' 
call dem fool signs. He wah readin' de future when yo' 
knock so loud on de doah." 

" You 're an old liar, Cupe. Some man told you 
these things about me." 

" An' yo' wan' t' see wid yoah eyes ? " 

" I dare you to show me the things you claim to see." 

" Memberlec' dat Cupe doan ax yo' on. Yo' am de 
feller what ax de quistion." 

312 



The Magic Mirror 

'' I dare you to show me the manner in which you 
read the sign." 

" Dah am moah 'n one way, but one 's nuff fo' yo'. 
Sit still an' doan move, yo' sign chile, sit still, an' yo '11 
see de passin' ob de past an' de come'n ob de nex' 
spell." 

He lighted a candle and from some unseen receptacle 
produced a black object like a mirror, about twelve inches 
in length and nine inches in diameter. It was concave, 
and black as pitch. This he placed in my hands, ex- 
plaining that I must look into its concave surface. As 
my fingers touched the curious object, everj/^ point of 
which was black as asphaltum, a curious sensation ran 
over my body, a strange tremble that seemed to be car- 
ried into my frame from out my finger-tips. The dim 
glimmer of the candle, that lighted the room but little, 
and the thing I touched but could see not at all, the 
solemn voice of the negro, the air of mystery with 
which he moved and spoke, following the remarkable 
manner in which he had outlined the experiences I met 
in Cincinnati, and that I supposed were locked securely 
in my own breast, unnerved me and my hands trembled. 

"What is this thing, and where did you get it?" I 
asked. 

" Et am de sign-glass, an' I got et from de man who 
doan make no alm'nacs. Cupe hab trabelled Norf, an' 
hab trabelled Souf, an' hab sot monstrous close t' men 
who hab be'n out in de night an' in de sunshine wha' 
de summer am all de yeah long. Yo '11 see moah in dat 
glass dan yo' ebah read in any book, an' when yo' git 
fru, yo '11 not hab t' ax Cupe t' tole yo' de nex' news 
what 's come'n, an' yo' won't be consahned in wha' Cupe 
got de glass need'h. Look down an' read — read de 
glass." 



Stringtown on the Pike 

I lowered my eyes, and as I did so the negro blew out 
the flame of the candle ; again I was in absolute dark- 
ness, gazing at or toward an object in itself black even 
in daylight. " Cupe, this is nonsense ; light up the 
candle, open the door ! " I said. But still I gazed into 
the mirror's depths, for strange movements began to play 
in the air near where I felt the surface of the thing should 
be, and then an uncouth object shot from out one side of 
the mirror and assumed the shape of an ugly human face. 

" Look in de sign-glass, chile, an' talk when de spell 
am obah," but no reason had the negro to make this 
charge now, for as suddenly as it appeared did the face 
vanish, and I now gazed in fascination down into its 
depths, yes, through it into light beyond. This is what 
I saw. 

The motion of the air at first was similar to a thick 
mist blown back and forth in the night before an ilium- 
inated object that could just be distinguished deep down 
in the bottomless distance. Then came a gyrating move- 
ment that swept the vapours into a spiral which revolved 
as does an eddy of water, sucking the vapours into a 
vortex centre, which seemed to pass down into the in- 
creasing brightness beyond. As the vapours disappeared 
into the eddy, the light rapidly brightened, and soon I 
sat looking into a sunshine scene in which no object 
appeared, nothing but a curious light, soft, pleasant, 
soothing. Then came a shadow, and as by magic a 
scene uplifted oefore my eyes, a scene of the past in 
which I had taken part, and all the incidents of that night 
of terror in which as a child I first ran to this cabin, 
followed each other in rapid succession. I saw minutely 
every phase of that scene, from the reading by Cupe of 
the sign in the ashes to the vision of the little girl sitting 
at the table. 

514 



The Magic Mirror 

Next came a blank in which mists whirled again, and 
then appeared the scene in the grocery, where, that night 
in 1863, stood Parson Jones confronting the picturesque 
Colonel Luridson. I heard the storm again ; the sleet 
and wind of New Year, 1864, beat upon my ears, the 
movements of the men about that stove and their con- 
versation were again a part of my life, and I saw myself, 
too, sitting in the circle even until the climax came and 
the hands of the parson leaped out and grasped the throat 
of Luridson. I saw and heard as if I were an observer, 
and then, as for the second time, I gazed at a scene in 
which an actor, I sat now an observer. I cried aloud 
and the scene changed. 

Next came, one by one, the principal incidents I have 
recorded in this history of my life and which I need not 
again relate. The quarrel with Red-Head in the valley, 
the farewell to Stringtown, the pathetic ride on the old, 
rocking stage, the subsequent experiences in Cincinnati, 
touched upon by Cupe and which I had never described 
to any one, the life in college, the return to Stringtown, 
the recent incidents, and at last I was led to the present 
moment, and saw myself sitting in my chair gazing into 
the magic mirror. Yes, I sat in the cabin of Cupe 
holding that occult glass, into whose depths I was peer- 
ing and, remarkable statement, I was surely looking at 
myself. A feeling of awe came over me, a desire to 
drop the glass, and yet I could not. Spellbound my 
eyes followed the young man (myself), who next handed 
the glass to the negro by his side and passed out of the 
cabin. He walked slowly, with bowed head, seemingly 
in deep meditation ; but once did he stoop (and then I 
could not catch the object he picked up) until, raising 
his eyes, a girl appeared before him. The two spoke, 
then I saw him take her hand and plead for something, 

315 



Stringtown on the Pike 

but in words I could not catch, for the voices were very 
low. She stood with drooping eyes and seemed to with- 
stand the earnest solicitation, for she shook her head, 
and at last they separated, he moving slowly away toward 
Stringtown, she toward the cabin. And as she passed 
along I observed that her eyes were filled with tears. 

I next followed the lad until I entered the village. I 
saw the door of my home open, and then I stood by 
my mother's side pleading for something in words that 
again I could not catch. Eye seemed to be the more 
acute of the senses now, for while I heard an indistinct 
hum of voices ear could not catch the words. Earnestly 
I pleaded with my mother, and as I did so, I who saw but 
could not hear, grew deeply interested in the nature of 
the conversation, for I felt that it concerned my recent 
interview with the girl. Involuntarily I moved the 
mirror nearer my face, and then, instantly, darkness 
enveloped me. I sat in absolute darkness back in the 
cabin ; the charm was broken. 

I do not know how the negro learned that I had 
broken the spell — possibly I made some noise ; at any 
rate, he lighted the candle, took the "sign-glass " from 
my hands, opened the door, drew up the curtains, and 
then said : " An' did yo' see de story ob yoah life ? " 

*' I had a curious experience, surely," I replied, in a 
respectful tone I should not have used preceding the 
" experience." 

" An' did yo' reach de cabin ? " 

" Yes." 

"An' did yo' go pas' de cabin an' see de tings what 's 
come'n ? " 

" I saw myself walk away from this cabin, if you call 
that ' tings what 's come'n'." 

" Yo' did n't git t' de end ob yoah trabels, yo' did n't 
316 



The Magic Mirror 

see de cole face an' de crossed ham's, yo' did n't see de 
endin' ob de spell twixt yo' an' Red-Head ? " 

" No." 

*■ Yo' did n't fin' de meanin' ob de sign what say dat 
Susie '11 be gone from the worl' an' walkin' still ? " 

" No ; I moved the mirror and the scene disappeared." 

" Et am monstrous strange, de endin' ob de spell fo' 
Susie. Cupe hab read de endin' ob Red- Head an' ob 
yo', too, but he caint git no sense out ob de endin' ob 
Susie. Gone out ob de worl' an' yet in et, de spell say. 
She wah surely walkin' ahftah de sign p'dict she wah 
gone from de worl'. De pure white face wah sweet es 
an angel, she wah in ole Kaintuck suah, she wah movin' 
an' talkin', yit de sign say she wah gone from de worl'. 
Et am an awful ting t' Cupe t' not see de cleah endin' 
ob de spell fo' Susie." Then he turned to me and 
spoke kindly : " Chile, Cupe doan mean no ha'am t' yo', 
he hain't said no disrespec'. Yo' hab slandered de sign 
what doan come out ob de alm'nac book, but befo' yo' 
speak at random ag'in yo'll see dat de sign-glass kin show 
what de alm'nac book caint. Yo' hab seed de tings 
what yo' know am wonct be'n, an' yo' hab seed de 
come'n steps, an' yo' caint help but walk in de way yo' 
saw de signs movin'." He pointed to the door. " De 
come'n ob de sign am axin' yo' t' go on." 

I left the cabin, and passed down a path that led to 
Stringtown. 



317 



CHAPTER LII 

MY SECOND JOURNEY OVER A PATH I NEVER YET 
HAD TROD 

MANY and varied vi^ere the emotions that passed 
through my mind as I left that door. What 
strange mirror had Cupe in his possession that could 
lead me to imagine that I was looking at my past move- 
ments ? " Pshaw ! " I said aloud, " the negro has 
made a fool of me." 

But there came then to mind the curious manner in which 
he touched upon my movements in Cincinnati. Slowly 
I passed along, stopping often to think over the incidents 
related, and then it occurred to me that I had passed 
that way before. Yes, I saw that I was simply retrac- 
ing a path over which I had recently walked ; and yet I 
knew that I came to the cabin by another path, and that 
not for four years had I been there previously. Objects 
by the wayside were familiar, and as I passed along I 
anticipated those that would next appear. 

I stooped over and picked a modest little blue blossom 
that peeped from a tuft of grass by the path — I had 
picked that same flower before from beside that exact 
clump of grass — and as I pinned it to my lapel I appre- 
ciated that once before I had pinned that identical flower 
to the lapel as now I did it. 

" Strange," I thought to myself, " I meet detail ex- 
periences now that I did not notice when reading the 
mirror, but which I perceive, now that I am reminded 

318 



My Second Journey, &c. 

of them, are surely repetitions of past incidents." And 
then I caught the fact that the mirror seemingly opened 
conspicuous phases of life and held them before my gaze, 
but left the impress of others to be revived on my intel- 
lect. These reflections sifted through my mind as I 
passed for the second time along that narrow path, the 
path I had recently seen myself following, and then my 
thoughts turned towards Susie and unbidden came to my 
lips the lines of a favourite song of that day : 

'T was down in the meadows, the violets were blooming 

And the springtime grass was fresh and green. 
And the birds by the brooklet their sweet songs were singing, 
When I first met my darling, Daisy Deane. 

" Don't sing the song out, please." 

I had turned a sharp angle in the thickest banked 
hollow and Susie stood before me. She was slowly 
walking toward her home ; her downcast eyes were 
shaded by her sunbonnet, and her gaze rested on the 
path before her. She raised her eyes and fixed them on 
my own, this child woman, whose youthful face, not- 
withstanding her childishness, was womanly in expres- 
sion. " I have been to the cabin. Miss Susie," I said ; 
" it may be my last visit, for soon I start North to pre- 
pare for the task I have assumed ; but you know that 
you said I might come again." 

Not heeding my words, the girl extended her hand ; I 
took it in my own, and held it too long, I fear, before 
releasing it. " Mr. Drew," she said, " you must come 
no more to my home." I began to protest, but she 
interrupted. "Do not deny me this favour; I am in 
earnest, deeply in earnest. Come no more to my cabin, 
avoid Cupe, avoid Dinah " — she hesitated an instant, 
just enough to show that she had hesitated — and con- 
tinued : " Bid me good-bye forever." 

319 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" Susie, this is cruel. What have I done to provoke 
you ? Did I not ask you to forgive my rudeness the 
night I met Red-Head in your home ? " 

" I bear you no ill will for that," she answered. " I 
was partly at fault, and I am sorry for my last remark ; 
I did not give the rose to Red-Head." 

" I already know that, and yet I thank you for telling 
me. But why did you tantalise me, what object had 
you in declining to give me the second rose, why did 
you irritate me by leading me to believe that you in- 
tended to give it to him ?" 

" Am I not a girl ? Why should you take that so 
seriously ? Had you the discernment of a girl you 
would not have asked me to give you the second rose ; it 
was foolish in me to proffer you, unasked, the first one." 

" Let the matter drop. I have one of the roses and 
Red-Head did not get the other. Susie, twice only in 
four years have I called at your home to meet you ; at 
neither time did I get the chance to tell you why I made 
the visit." 

" Nor must you tell me now." 

*' Susie, I'll not leave you this time without having 
my say. I — " 

" Please, Mr. Drew," she interrupted, " first listen to 
me. 

" Go on. Miss Susie. But when you have finished I 
shall tell you what twice before I have tried to say." 

Not heeding me, she continued : " I am a lonely 
girl reared by the negroes. I have been wild and care- 
less, but am so no longer. If I have a father, he has 
no child in me. My mother was shot during the war, 
I cannot remember her. Youth has been in my case a 
strange story of negro lore and superstition, of human 
neglect and inhuman loneliness. I remember less of 

320 



My Second Journey, &c. 

pleasure than of trouble, less of kindness than of rude- 
ness. I am prematurely old in some things, but this is 
not my fault ; no other girl in Stringtown has had cause 
to think as have I of things that crush the joys of child- 
hood. No girl companion ever crosses the threshold of 
my home, nor do I meet any in their own. Why 
should I be young ? Mr. Dreu^, to think as I have 
done since I vi^as taught my place among people is to 
learn more of some things than many who are much 
older know. To feel the undeserved touch of shame is 
to realise what shame really is. To meet the shrinking 
eye and the withdrawn hand, to hear the sneer of the 
heartless tongue, brings care and sorrow that brushes 
youth away early. I am alone with Cupe and Dinah ; 
nearly as old in feeling, I sometimes imagine, as are 
they. You have been kind in thinking of me. I don't 
know why you act as you do, but you are indiscreet and 
have no right to injure yourself and wrong me by per- 
sisting in your visits. I wish to be left alone; and 
while I feel deeply grateful for your good will, I cannot 
permit any further attention." 

" Susie, you wrong both of us by this idle talk. You 
are a girl, and yet you take life as seriously as if you 
were a full-grown woman." 

" Cares and thoughts that are bred of snubs and 
sneers have cut off my girlhood. I have already told 
you that. I have no mother to take a mother's part for 
me ; I must be a woman. I know some things too 
well to require information from others concerning 
them, and one of these is that you have brought me 
much trouble." 

" I, Susie, I ? " 

" Yes, you. It was you who asked that I might be 
educated, who led me to receive the instruction that 
21 ^21 



Stringtown on the Pike 

enabled me to understand my position in life. Were I 
the wild ignorant girl I should have been but for your 
interference, I might now be happy with the negroes, 
knowing nothing concerning the world nor of what 
others have and are in the world, nor yet of what I arh 
myself. You did a wrong, Mr. Drew, in thus showing 
me what other girls are, and in picturing my utter dis- 
grace and absolute helplessness. I could not have felt 
these things had you left me in ignorance." 

" Miss — " 

" Nothing but Susie, if you please," she interjected, 
observing that I hesitated. 

" Susie," I continued, " these things that you brood 
over concern me not at all and do you no harm. You 
magnify your misfortunes ; you misjudge men and 
women ; you wrong your friends and hurt those who 
would be your friends. I speak from my heart, Susie ; 
you wrong me too, and to prove it I shall tell you 
now what I came twice before to say. I — " 

" Stop," she cried ; " before you finish the words you 
intend to speak, I would ask — have you spoken to 
your mother ? " 

Surely the girl knew what I intended to ask. Her 
manner showed that, and now my heart leaped, for her 
tone was not that of one offended or unfriendly, but 
rather of earnest questioning. 

" No ; but she will make no objection to — " 

" First ask her, and if she makes no objection, you 
may come to the cabin and finish the question you would 
ask of me. Promise to do this," she pleaded. 

" You have my promise, Susie, but you need have no 
question concerning the result. I shall return to-night 
— yes, this very afternoon. I '11 tell you then that 
which I have started three times to say." 

322 



My Second Journey, &c. 

She shook her head. " You will not come back 
to-night, neither will it be to-morrow nor yet the next 
day. No, never. You may meet me by accident, I 
may come to you — Cupe says that I '11 kneel on the 
floor and with tears in my eyes beg justice of you — 
but whether this is true or not you will never come to 
me with these words on your lips again." 

" You will never come again," she continued ; " others 
have turned away, none are left but Red-Head and my 
guardian — none, and you, too, will come no more. 
Farewell." Her hand trembled as I again clasped it, 
and now its touch was cold. Her eyes met mine, and 
I saw that they were filled with tears. " May I have 
the flower you wear in your lapel ? " she asked. " Why 
do you ask that of me ? " I said. " Take it, though, 
and if ever you need a friend, one who will grant your 
every wish, you who claim that you have no friends, 
need but show that flower to me. Whatever it may he^ 
and wherever I may he^ you have hut to askT 

"Thank you, and farewell, Mr. Drew. You have 
been kind to me, but very thoughtless I think about 
yourself. I forgive you the wrong you have done in 
the unsought education that shows me my position. 
But I wish that it could be forever lost." 

I stood in silence. She turned and walked up the 
path the way I came, vanishing around the clump of 
hazel, and then I turned toward Stringtown. Now 
came again to my mind the vision that the mirror 
pictured ; all I had seen therein had been repeated, 
verified, and in addition my ear had now heard the con- 
versation that the mirror failed to give. 



323 



CHAPTER LIII 

" NEVER, UNLESS DUTY CALLS, SHALL I RETURN 
TO STRINGTOWN " 

MY patient, loving mother, whose life had been a 
constant sacrifice for her son, once a source of 
deep humiliation, now an object of pride, sat that after- 
noon in the little room sewing by the centre table. I 
entered with quick step, with happy heart, with no mis- 
givings concerning the result of my mission. The 
fulfilment of my desires had been to her a source of 
great pleasure heretofore ; she had never denied me a 
request that was right and that could be conceded. 

" Mother " — I said, seating myself beside her chair, 
— "I am now twenty-one years of age. 1 have a good 
position, where advancement is certain, and where I 
shall win yet higher honours. In order to prepare for 
the course I have mapped out I must leave Stringtown 
in a few days. Before going, however, I wish to speak 
with you concerning a very important subject." 

" Go on, my son," said she, laying aside her sewing. 

" Mother, you know that I have been offered an 
assistant position in chemistry. I hope to make a better 
home than this for you in a few years, and to give you 
a life of peace and rest. For me you have worked your 
fingers sore, have slaved since I can remember." 

" You must first make a happy home for yourself, my 
boy ; that should be your object, one to which, in case 
of necessity, your old mother may come and end her 

324 



"Never, unless Duty Calls, &c." 

days. But for a time at least I shall not think of leav- 
ing Stringtown. Look forward to a home of your own ; 
seek no higher ambition. You will some day meet one 
you can ask to go with you to the end of your journey, 
and be with you, to love you and be loved. This I 
hope to see accomplished before I die." 

" I have met her already, mother," I said in elation, 
" and I came to ask your permission to speak to her, to 
get your blessing on both of us and your favour for her." 

*' So soon, my son ! Are you not hasty ? I thought 
and spoke of the future. I had no suspicion of this 
love ; you did not tell me that you had found a sweet- 
heart in the North." 

" Nor have I." 

" And yet you keep no company with Stringtown 
girls." 

" No, and shall not. I am in love, but my love is 
neither in the North nor in Stringtown. I love the girl 
who lives with Cupe and Dinah, the girl called Susie." 

My mother dropped the garment she held in her 
hand. 

" You do not mean it, Sammy." 

" Mother, I speak the truth. I love Susie better than 
life." 

"• Susie who ? " 

The question was cmel. My mother, she to whom I 
came in absolute confidence, she, too, emphasised the 
word who^ and as unmercifully as any Stringtown girl 
had done. I stood up in anger, indignation for the first 
time toward my mother entered my heart. 

" ' Who ? ' why, Susie, only Susie, and I who am 
concerned most of any care for nothing else. Some day 
she will be Susie Drew, and then I '11 beat the face of 
the man who says ' Susie who ? ' to me, and I '11 teach 

325 



Stringtown on the Pike 

the — " but my mother had spoken the word '-'■who^^ — 
I did not finish the remark. 

" My son, you must listen to your mother. Have 
you asked the girl to marry you ? " 

" No." 

"She is an adventuress, — yes, vi^orse, a girl without 
character, one who has no friends among respectable 
people, who is shunned by the village girls and neglected 
by the village boys. Her history is one of shameful 
birth, if report speaks true ; to be disgraced by birth is a 
lasting stigma unforgivable. Subsequent environment has 
added nothing to remove the stain, — she has been negro- 
bred. Listen to your mother, my dear boy, see her no 
more." 

" And this from you, mother ! " 

" Yes ; I am old enough to speak advisedly. You 
are young, a pretty face excites what you think is love, 
— it is puppy love, my child, and when the face is out 
of sight will soon fade away. You cannot realise that to 
marry that girl will be to blast your life and disgrace 
your mother. How did this artful adventuress manage 
to entangle you ? She 's a dangerous girl. Surely the 
villagers do not know of the affair, or else I would long 
since have known of it." 

" Mother, I cannot take this kindly, even from you. 
I must have my say. I am no longer a child. Susie is 
as pure and holy as was ever girl or woman. She has 
been unfortunate in birth ; she does not know her father, 
much to his shame, and not to her disgrace; her life has 
been a dreary, lonely one, and her companions have been 
her books and the negroes. From the one she has prof- 
ited, the others have served her well, — be it said to their 
credit and to Stringtown's discredit. You say that I am 
possessed by ' puppy love,' that when the face is gone 

326 



" Never, unless Duty Calls, &c." 

the love will fade away. That is not so. You say that 
to marry Susie will be to blast my life, that my marriage 
to the girl will disgrace you, my mother. And why ? 
Because of an unwritten law that scoundrels make, and 
society follows, that reaches even such as you, and does 
not credit you, who seek to save discredit from your son. 
You called that girl an adventuress, but the facts are that 
your son made the advances. I sought her, but she gave 
no encouragement. I forced my attentions on her, and 
she met them coldly. She has been wronged by you. 
I must say this, even to you, mother." 

I sank on my knees by her side, and as if I were again 
a child, buried my face in her lap, while tears, born of 
humiliation, indignation, disappointment, and sorrow, 
gushed from my eyes. She gently stroked my hair, back 
and forth, as she had been wont to do when I was a 
child. 

" Heed the words of your mother, Sammy. Disgrace 
that falls upon and lingers over the name of woman can 
never be brushed away." 

" But she has done nothing wrong, this forlorn girl ; 
she is helpless." 

" The world makes no allowance for the fact that the 
girl is not at fault ; she is unfortunate, and must accept 
the odium that rests upon her name. Does not the Bible 
say words to the effect that the sins of the parents shall 
be visited upon the children ? " 

" Don't make me hate the Bible, mother ! " 

« My child ! " 

" Listen now to me, mother." I arose and seated 
myself on my chair, calm, composed. " I shall leave 
Stringtown to-night — yes, this very night. My vaca- 
tion scarce commenced, ends to-night. Never, unless 
duty calls, shall I return to Stringtown, unless you give 

327 



Stringtown on the Pike 

me permission to go to Susie as a suitor, free to ask her 
to be my wife, or unless Susie permits me to visit her. I 
have made a fool of myself in my usual way, — that of 
thoughtlessly acceding to a request that I should never 
have granted. I intended to ask Susie to be my wife 
to-day, and then to ask your blessing ; but thinking only 
that you would approve of it, I agreed to ask your con- 
sent first." 

" Thank the Lord, my child, that some far-seeing 
friend, one who comprehends the effect of social disgrace, 
has prevented this terrible mistake. Whoever he or she 
may be, my heartfelt thanks and gratitude go out to him 
or her. Had you not made this promise, you might 
now have been in the toils of the adventuress." 

" You have blessed the girl ; for this I thank you," 
I said, but added no further word of explanation. Then 
I arose and strode back and forth across the little room. 
Suddenly I turned to my mother : 

" I shall take the bus this evening for my new posi- 
tion. My trunk is scarce unpacked. I shall leave 
Stringtown now.'" 



328 



CHAPTER LIV 



FAREWELL TO SUSIE 



I STEPPED into my room and wrote a note which, 
hastily sealing, I addressed with the simple word 
" Susie." What else could I have used, what else but 
*' Susie l^P^ho f " Then I called a boy from the street 
and paid him liberally to deliver it immediately. The 
letter was permissible, for although I agreed not to call 
on her, I had not promised the girl that I would not 
write. 

Love letters, I have heard, are not as a rule very edi- 
fying to others. This, my first, last and only love letter, 
I shall, however, venture to reproduce. 

Dear Susie : You say that I wronged you in inducing Mr. 
Wagner to educate you. To this I take no exception. You 
think that you have been led by that education to see yourself 
disgraced. With this I take issue. By reason of it you perceive 
better the sins of men and women who make social laws to pro- 
tect the strong and oppress the weak, to elevate the villain of a 
father and damn his innocent child. I shall leave Stringtown 
this afternoon on the evening bus, and by your command I go 
without calling on you. You induced me to promise to leave to 
my mother a question that concerned myself more than all 
others, you bound me to an oath that I cannot break, but which 
your discriminative eye foresaw would lead to my defeat and to 
my present distress. For this I blame you. Let, then, my 
charge against you balance the one you hold against me. And 
now to the future. I leave Stringtown anxious to complete the 
sentence which, incomplete as it is, I shall hold sacred until my 



Stringtown on the Pike 

mother gives me the privilege of returning to your side or until 
you permit me to come and finish it. I obey my mother 
because you command it, otherwise I should firmly insist on 
using my ow^n good will ; you know what that will is. I sol- 
emnly swear that it shall never change while life lasts. 

Yours, 

Samuel Drew. 

Then I turned to help my mother pack the trunk 
that a few days previously came with me from the 
North. In a short time it was strapped and rolled to the 
gate. I bade her farewell, and at last as the shadows 
lengthened started for the bus which, delayed by an acci- 
dent, late that afternoon rolled into Stringtown. As I 
mounted the box to the familiar seat beside the driver, 
old Cupe shuffled to my side and thrust a letter into my 
hand, then left me without a word. The four-in-hand 
rolled ofF, stopped a moment before my mother's door, 
where my trunk was thrown aboard, and then rumbled 
on again. Once more I saw mother standing with 
handkerchief to her eyes, but this time I felt that had 
she cared more for her boy and less for the traditions of 
society, joy might both have brightened her face and 
gladdened my heart. 

Then I opened the letter that lies now before my 
eyes : 

Afr. Samue/ Drew. 

Dear Friend : In reply to your letter, it is my opinion that 
you wrong your mother. She should not be blamed for loving 
you too well to permit you to disgrace yourself. I am unfor- 
tunate, through no act of my own, it is true, but yet unfortunate, 
and I know it. Were I in the place of one of your Stringtown 
girls, and she in mine, I would probably shun her as now I am 
shunned. The mark of shame rests over my life. The social 
rules that govern people cannot be changed, nor should they ; 



Farewell to Susie 

for to relax social vigilance would be to open the door to crime 
and immorality. I have racked my brain over the matter, have 
read and studied social science, and although I am young, the sub- 
ject has disturbed me for years. You have my thanks for your 
good will — this I have told you before. You will merit them 
the more if you look to your own future, and forget the past so 
far as it concerns me. Undo your hasty, thoughtless pledges, 
strive to excel in good deeds and leave the negro-bred girl 
Susie to pass in peace wherever chance or duty leads her. Mr. 
Drew, you are far above me. Of all the persons I know, Red- 
Head alone stands in actual sympathy and on an equality with 
such as I. Let, then, my life be spent in sympathy with those 
to whom such as I must be in touch, let the unended sentence 
you have three times commenced rest unfinished forever. 

Very truly yours, 

Susie. 

While I was reading the letter the driver stopped the 
team in order to arrange a defective piece of harness on 
one of the horses, and as I raised my eyes I saw Red- 
Head beneath a tree by the right-hand side of the road. 
Tall, erect, lithe, he stood not more than twenty feet 
from me, gazing directly into my face. A sensation akin 
to pity for the young man came over me, a kindly feel- 
ing for one neglected as he had been. I raised my hat 
politely and bowed. But he, without any recognition 
whatever, gazed stoically into my face and whistled. 
Then the devil touched my heart, and in a low tone, 
that was the more effective because of this fact, I asked : 
" Why do you not go back to the mountains ; cannot 
you handle a Springfield rifle yet ? " He made no 
replv, and I continued : " How about that mountain 
feud ? Holcomb will get tired of waiting for you to 
grow bigger." 

Indifferent to the taunt, he stood motionless. The 
coach now moved on, and as it did so I spoke the 

331 



Stringtown on the Pike 

meanest words I ever used : " You 're very w^illing to 
talk fight, you who dare not go back to the mountains 
where lives old man Holcomb." But even this brought 
no reply ; like a statue he remained in the shadow, 
watching the stage on which I sat, watching it until 
around a bend in the pike the lumbering vehicle dis- 
appeared from his view. 



332 



CHAPTER LV 

PROFESSOR SAMUEL DREW 

INTO the University I stepped with embittered heart 
and rebellious spirit. Ambition still possessed me, 
but not such ambition as should have animated a poor 
widow's son with my prospects. The professor whom 
I was to assist greeted me kindly, and I found him to 
be a charming old man, engrossed in the love of his 
science. He took pains to introduce me at once to 
those of his colleagues who still lingered about the 
University, although most members of the faculty were 
now enjoying their vacation elsewhere. 

" You please me very much, Mr. Drew," he remarked 
during our first audience. " Not many young men 
would sacrifice their summer vacation as you have done 
in order to acquaint themselves with the exacting details 
of a new work. It speaks well for your future, for while 
genius is often useful and sometimes leads to fortune, 
the men who make successes of their lives are those 
who work while others rest. Surely it must have re- 
quired more than a little self-sacrifice on your part to 
leave your mother, your friends, your — " he glanced slyly 
out of the corners of his eyes — " your sweetheart ! " 

" Let it pass," I answered ; " forget that I came 
before duty called me. I shall do my utmost to credit 
myself in the future." 

Many were the compliments the old professor gave 
me, for my daily application pleased him, and when the 

333 



Stringtown on the Pike 

president returned from abroad, he praised me in my 
very presence, informing him that I had sacrificed my 
vacation and devoted my entire time to the University 
work, " and," he added, " credit for the changed con- 
dition of the laboratory and chemical department is due 
to his personal efforts." But I thought of the girl who 
once stood before me in the path near Stringtown, and 
the events that had followed the request she made ; of 
the bitter spirit and heart madness with which I came to 
this work ; and realising how unearned was the praise 
bestowed upon me, demurred. 

" You are mistaken," I said. " I deserve no credit." 

" Tut, tut, boy ! and to whom is the credit due ? " 

The answer and the question were alike unexpected ; 
the eyes of both were quizzing me. 

" To Susie." 

The old man chuckled, and slyly poked the president 
in the ribs with his thumb, a thing I did not expect to 
see a dignified professor do to a great president. 

" And who is Susie ? " 

That hateful term again, " Who is Susie ? " Could 
I never get away from it ? But regard for the men led 
me to be decorous now and to suppress my indignation. 

" She 's a girl, and lives near Stringtown." 

Again the professor chuckled. " Let the credit be 
with Susie; " then he added : " Let us hope the time may 
come when we may meet Susie in the University." 

" She '11 never come to this University while I am 
here, and never again shall I visit Stringtown while she 
is there. We are nothing to each other, for she will 
not have it so. I beg you, though, to give Susie the 
credit for my early appearance, and pass the matter 
forever." 

" Pardon us, Mr. Drew ; we unintentionally touched 
334 



Professor Samuel Drew 

a tender spot ; pardon our thoughtless familiarity," said 
the professor. Thsy passed from the room and I turned 
sadly to my work. But I could not help thinking that 
the old professor reminded me very much of Judge 
Elford, and I could but wonder how the dignified presi- 
dent of a University could be punched in the ribs with- 
out being offended. And so I began my new found 
task which grew more enticing as the seasons passed, 
during which period, true to my word, I refrained from 
visiting Stringtown. 

The death of good old Professor Longman, who died 
after a short illness, left me, in the middle of a subse- 
quent session, in full charge of the classes, and faithful 
attention to my duties, together with the commendations 
he had bestowed upon me during his life, led the trustees 
subsequently to appoint me to the vacancy, to which 
knowing well my youthfulness, I did not presume to 
aspire. But it seems that the president had declared 
in my favour and was not afraid of young blood. He 
appeared personally before the Board and expressed him- 
self to that effect, which left them no reason, had they 
been so inclined, to seek elsewhere for a successor. 
Hence the Announcement of the University on the Hill, 
following the death of Professor Longman, bore my 
name as Professor of Chemistry, and thus it was that 
I became unexpectedly honoured ; but of this I need 
say nothing further, for I was now a man, and knew 
that hard work had earned that position for me. 

The middle of the session following my appointment 
found me one day sitting in my private office reading 
a letter from my mother. It contained the usual loving 
messages, and the neighbourhood gossip was also brought 
to date. But its ending, which I reproduce, cast a 
shadow over my heart: 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Mr. Nordman, the old gentleman who lived beside the pike 
south of Stringtown, died suddenly this morning. He had been 
very feeble, but otherwise seemed to enjoy good health. He 
was attacked with a misery in his stomach immediately after 
breakfast, and died soon after the doctor reached his bedside. 

I held the letter listlessly in my hand and mused: 
" Now he, too, will lie in the little graveyard behind 
the house." And musing thus, the single shaft in the 
family graveyard appeared before my mind-sight ; that 
shaft to the south of which rested his child, the Southern 
soldier, and to the north of which lay the Union son. 
And next came to mind and sight the form of Mr. 
Nordman, as the day before I left Stringtown, he led 
me to the spot where rested his two boys. And then 
recurred the words of advice he gave me as we parted : 
" The grass grows no greener, the violets bloom no 
earlier, over the one than over the other. ' The wah 
is over, Sammy.' " 

•■' The war is surely over now for you, Mr. Nord- 
man," I sadly said to myself, and then turned to my 
work. 



336 



CHAPTER LVI 

THE STRINGTOWN POISON CASE 

THE lectures passed day by day, the laboratory 
classes were drilled, as usual, and yet that sen- 
tence of Mr. Nordman rang in my ears and came un- 
bidden to mind when no cause seemed to excite it. 

The figure of Mr. Nordman seemed constantly before 
my eyes, his words rang ever in my ears, and try as I 
might I could not beat them out. 

" What had Mr. Nordman to do with me, that the 
announcement of his death should thus concern me ? " 
I asked this question, and then argued that this domina- 
tion of my mind by his form and voice was simply the 
result of habit, a fit of melancholy permitted it, a sour 
stomach, perhaps, induced it. Surely Mr. Nordman's 
death was of no greater concern to me than was that of 
many other men in Stringtown who had died since I 
knew the village. Then came a second letter from 
Stringtown, a letter in a strange hand, but which bore 
the well-known Stringtown postmark. It was written 
by the attorney who had prosecuted old negro Cupe in 
the trial wherein he was freed by Right of Clergy, and 
I learned from it that the writer was again prosecuting 
attorney of Stringtown County. Let me give the letter 
in full : 

My dear Professor Drew : As prosecuting attorney of 
Stringtown County, it becomes my duty to engage an expert 
chemist in behalf of the Commonwealth. Can I secure your 

^^ 337 



Stringtown on the Pike 

services ? The case is one of importance, and knowing you as 
I do, and knowing, too, the esteem in which you are held bv 
the people of our county, I hope that you will consent to serve 
us. We wish an analysis made of the contents of the stomach 
of Mr. Nordman, whom you probably remember. I will add 
that I guarantee your fee, which will be paid by the adminis- 
trator of the estate. Please let me hear from you at once. 

Sincerely yours, 

Z. B. PUTTEN. 

I turned to my desk and at once accepted the offer, 
giving explicit directions concerning the manner in which 
the suspected parts were to be secured, sealed in the 
presence of witnesses and then expressed to my address. 
The letter posted, I turned to my books and sought the 
sections devoted to the detection of poisons, after which 
I sat in meditation. Do not "coming events cast their 
shadows before ? '* In what other way than on this 
hypothesis can I account for the persistence with which 
I had been pursued by the form and words of Mr. Nord- 
man ? Then came the thought that in the course of 
events duty would demand that I go once more to 
Stringtown. Duty calls, and while away in her behest 
I may chance to meet Susie. 

Then I mentally thanked Mr. Putten, the prosecuting 
attorney, for his confidence in my ability, and did not 
feel unkindly toward Mr. Nordman for the part he had 
taken in my personal affairs. 

But when the express package reached me, that 
wooden-bound box securely encased in hoop iron, a sen- 
sation which I cannot correctly voice in writing came 
over me. And when my assistant opened the box and 
removed from it the large glass fruit jar closely wrapped 
in stiff manilla paper and sealed with red wax bearing the 
official stamp of the sheriff, I felt a sinking of the heart j 

338 



The Stringtown Poison Case 

for I was not accustomed to handle such fruit as that jar 
contained. But a duty is a duty, I thought, and a 
gem from the Jewish Talmud came to my mind : ^ 

A man along that road is led 
Which he himself desires to tread ; 

and for the first time I questioned if my repeated use of 
the word duty, in connection with this affair, was not 
due to an attempt on my part to argue my conscience 
down. But it was too late now to retreat. Ambition 
as well as duty bade me go on. Then another verse 
from the Talmud formulated itself unbidden and rang its 
changes in my mental ear : 

Ambition, as its fate, death and the grave await. 

" Open the package, William," I said to my assistant, 
" remove half its contents, securely close and seal the jar 
containing the other part and place it in a cool situation 
in the laboratory cellar." He did as directed, and I 
turned to my test tubes and reagents. 

Systematically I began the task I had undertaken — 
the examination of the contents of the jar with the 
object of discovering if it contained a poisonous body. 
There is no need of a record of all the details of the 
process. It is enough to state that no mineral poison, 
no inorganic poisonous acid, was discovered, nor yet the 
formidable prussic acid. Neither was phosphorus pres- 
ent nor any poisonous metal or salt thereof. There was 
no trace of an arsenic compound. The most exacting 
tests gave negative results only, and at last I turned to 
search for the vegetable bodies known as alkaloids, which, 
as a rule, are so energetic in action ; strychnine, mor- 
phine, atropine, being typical of the class. It will be 

1 See "Gems from the Talmud," by Rev. Isadore Myers, B.A. 

339 



Stringtown on the Pike 

seen that these bodies embrace the most fearful of the 
poisons, and, let me add, are detected as a class by cer- 
tain well-known reagents. 

William stood with chin resting nearly on my shoul- 
der and watched the first drop of the sensitive test-liquid 
slip down the side of the test tube and strike the surface 
of the acidulated solution I had made from the suspected 
material. As the two liquids mingled a white cloud 
sprang into view, and as the denser drop of Mayer's 
Test sank slowly down into the yellow liquid, following 
the inclined glass tube to its very bottom, a white cloud 
marked its pathway, and when the liquids were shaken 
together a milky solution resulted. Another and yet 
another drop of the test solution was cautiously added, 
and the liquids successively mixed, producing yet deeper 
milkiness ; and at last, under the gentle agitation of the 
turbid liquid, changed into a clear solution holding clots 
of dirty white precipitate, which, when the tube was 
allowed to rest, settled to the bottom in a heavy layer. 

I turned to my assistant, but no words were necessary ; 
to one conversant with alkaloidal tests this reaction char- 
acteristic of the group needed no explanation. Our eyes 
spoke the message that required no tongue to interpret. 
But not content with this, I took successive but very 
small portions of the original liquid and tested them sev- 
erally with other reagents for the alkaloids, with unmis- 
takable returns from all. Then, as I made a careful 
record of the result in my note-book, I said : " The 
next step is to identify the alkaloid." 

" I would expect strychnine," my assistant remarked, 
" for these precipitates seem to me much like those of 
strychnine." 



340 



CHAPTER LVII 

SUSIE PLEADS FOR RED-HEAD 

" ** I ''HAT point must be determined," I replied. " It 
-^ may be strychnine or a mixture. I shall not 
prejudice myself concerning it." And in the end, after 
several days had passed, I was fairly well satisfied, al- 
though there were some points in connection with the 
chrome-sulphuric acid test which puzzled me. The 
blue-violet colour surely did appear, but it was not as 
characteristic as I should have liked. But after I ob- 
tained white microscopic crystals of an alkaloid on a 
slide which gave the reaction, I said : '' You were cor- 
rect in your prediction, William ; strychnine must be 
present, and such shall be my testimony before the 
Court of Stringtown County." 

But that evening, for the first time, misgivings arose 
in my mind. They came during the dinner hour, when 
a companion made an idle query tnat I could not satisfac- 
torily answer, and so turned lightly aside, but it led me to 
questionings. I arose from the table and sought my room. 
I picked up a light novel, but could not interest myself in 
its contents. I turned to Chatnbers' Miscellany^ and by 
chance opened Volume H. to the record of cases wherein 
many men had suffered death on circumstantial evidence 
that in itself seemed with each case to be conclusive 
of guilt, but which afterward was shown to have been 
erroneous. That work gave me the shivers. I turned to 
the Bible, and read part of the Book of Job and laid it 

341 



Stringtown on the Pike 

down. I picked up Myers' Gems from the Talmud, 
and caught but one sentence : 

With the measure with which man metes to men, 
It will be measured to him again. 

I closed the book, drew on my overcoat, and in a 
gathering winter storm started for my laboratory. It 
was dark, very dark, and yet I went on in the night, 
for that verse and my disconcerted emotions impelled 
me to go then and to go there. Lighting up my room, 
I took out the reagents and the suspected liquid and 
carefully verified the reactions. I opened the books 
that are authority on phytochemistry, and studied the 
pages word by word. Closing them, I stood in thought ; 
then with my hand on the pile of volumes, spoke aloud : 
" If there be error in this work which I have done, ;'<?« 
are at fault, not I. But why should I question ; am not 
I a disciple in science and is not science infallible? Is 
not the chrome reaction of strychnine one of the cer- 
tainties in chemistry ? Even to your bitterness have I 
tested you," I said, addressing the liquid before me. 
But still a doubt possessed me, a questioning that would 
not have been had I possessed enough liquid to obtain 
large, pure crystals of strychnine ; nor would it have 
been a question in face of the reaction, had no human 
life been at stake. I raised the window and leaned out 
of the opening ; the scattered flakes of snow that were 
falling struck my heated forehead, imparting a pleasant 
tingle with each tiny contact. The cool air was refresh- 
ing, for my brain was hot. Dark were the other build- 
ings in the University grounds, dark was the country 
beyond, for my private laboratory was situated in the 
second story and permitted a view of the distance. 
Across the field of my vision came then a stream of 

342 



Susie Pleads for Red-Head 

moving lights ; the night train from the South was ap- 
proaching, and I watched it until the animated creation 
disappeared from view behind the building, and next I 
heard it whistle for the station. Feeling better now, 
for the cool air and the diversion of thought had re- 
laxed my nerves and soothed my brain, I turned again 
to my task, determined to go once more with great care 
over the work and end it. I do not know how many 
minutes I devoted to the manipulation — it must have 
taken half an hour — when came a ring of the bell of 
the outer door. I raised the window, and saw by the 
feeble light of the transom beneath that two figures stood 
just outside the entrance. Two of my friends, I con- 
jectured, and with this thought in mind spoke : " Open 
the door — it is not locked — and follow the lighted hall 
to my room. No. 13. You need not knock, open the 
door and enter." 

Again I turned to the tube I held in my hand prepa- 
ratory to the final test, my back to the door, and was 
thus employed when it opened. A voice I once knew 
so well, but had thought never to hear again, spoke : 
*' May I come in. Dr. Drew ? I would speak to you." 

I turned my head. There stood Susie, and behind 
her, in the background, appeared the familiar face of old 
Cupe. I replaced the tube in the rack and next ex- 
tended my trembling hand to the girl. " Susie," I said, 
as I asked her to be seated, " this is unexpected." 

Unintentionally I glanced at the clock ; the girl's eyes 
followed mine. " It is late. Professor Drew. I felt 
that, but the train was behind time, and I must return 
early to-morrow morning." She spoke reservedly. 

" Please be seated," I said, for she had not yet taken 
the proffered chair. But she made no movement. 
Standing before me, she gazed straight into my eyes, 

343 



Stringtown on the Pike 

and by that glance threw back into my life the wild love 
of other days, the love that had never been suppressed, 
but which, long encysted in my heart, needed but the 
sight of its creator to cause it to burst again into life. 

" I came to meet you, Mr. Drew," she replied, " to 
ask a question — yes, to beg a favour." 

" If in my power, you need only ask it." 

A smile came over her face, a smile that flitted on the 
instant. " You have my thanks in advance for your 
good will ; and yet I have not named the favour." 

" Susie," I impulsively replied, " your will is law to 
me. Tell me what you wish." 

" Promise me that you will not visit Stringtown until 
after the next session of our quarterly Court." 

I stood in astonishment. " Why do you ask this ? " 

" Promise me not to come." 

^' But I have legally contracted to testify before the 
Court. I am bound to appear." 

" And does this recently made duty to others so easily 
overcome your thrice-volunteered pledge to me ? " 

" My reputation demands that I attend that Court as 
an expert witness. I shall advance my position as a 
professional chemist by doing so." 

" It is but a little favour that I ask, and already you 
have promised to grant it. Do you value more your 
self-ambition than your word to me ? " 

" I cannot break my contract." 

" A friend of yours bids me say a word to you in case 
I fail, a friend who knows of my visit here." 

" And who may this friend be, Susie ? " 

" Judge Elford. ' Tell Sammy that I say the expert 
chemist is not an honour to science. Tell him that if 
he values his reputation, to decline to take an expert's 
part in this or any other case while conditions are as 

344 



Susie Pleads for Red-Head 

now and chemists make themselves partisans for the side 
that pays them. Tell him that I say keep away from 
Stringtown during the coming Court session.' " 

" The judge has spoken too late, and you come too 
late, Susie. I am powerless. See " — I pointed to the 
apparatus about me — " for days have I worked on this 
Stringtown poison case, have recorded the results, am 
ready to testify to the facts. I must go to that Court ; 
duty calls me." .^ 

" And so by means of these glasses you have estab- 
lished the nature of events that once occurred in String- 
town. A man you have not seen for years has died, 
and you propose to swear concerning the cause of his 
death ? " 

" Yes." 

" And may I ask, do the sign-glasses augur good to 
the living, or is the omen such as to lead you to String- 
town to swear a man onto the gallows ? " 

" Susie, this is not sign lore, this is science. Long 
since I wiped out of my nature those superstitious signs 
and omens of which you speak, but which have now no 
credence with me. This is science, 1 say, and science 
speaks unerringly concerning that which is ; she tells, 
too, of things that have passed and predicts those yet to 
come." 

" But you did not answer my question. Do the 
glasses say that Mr. Nordman died of poison ? " 

" Yes ; but I beg you to keep the fact to yourself. 
I should not tell you this." 

The girl dropped on her knees. " No ! I say no ! he 
was not poisoned ! " All her composure, her irony, her 
sarcastic tone of voice, vanished. She wrung her hands, 
and kneeling thus appeared for the first time a pleading 
woman, with the heart emotions of a woman. " No, 

345 



Stringtown on the Pike 

Mr. Drew, I say it was not poison, even if your science 
swears it ! " 

" Compose yourself, Susie." 

" You are the only man I fear ; no other chemist 
can come to Stringtown County and impress a jury of 
our people as your words will do, or antagonise them as 
they may do. Say that you will not come ! grant me 
this favour ! " 

" I cannot." 

She drew from her bosom a folded paper and took 
from it a pressed and dried blue flower. " When we 
stood in the path near my home in old Kentucky the day 
we last met, you gave me this flower, and of your own 
accord told me that if ever I wished a favour and pre- 
sented this flower the favour should be granted. ' What- 
ever it may be and wherever I shall be,' you said, ' you 
have but to ask.' I bring you now the flower, and on 
my knees I beg you to fulfil the promise made the girl 
long before you contracted with Mr. Putten to read for 
him the signs in the glasses. Is not the word given to 
me in the years that have passed as sacred as the legal 
contract you made but a few days ago ? T ask you to 
drop this Case, to come not to Stringtown during the 
next term of Court. Believe in me, Mr. Drew ; accept 
my pleadings before you do the signs and omens that 
you read in these tubes and vessels. I am alive, I have 
breath, consciousness and love. Those vessels are dead, 
insensible. Will you not take my word before that of 
lifeless objects, which I, who live and reason, say have 
not told the truth ? " 

" I cannot. Ask anything else but this. See, that 
blue-violet colouration of strychnine." I held the vessel 
and applied the test before her eyes. 

Dropping the withered flower on the floor, she arose 
346 



Susie Pleads for Red-Head 

and placed her foot upon it. " And this you call duty, 
this breaking of a sacred promise given to one who 
treasured your words and had no hope for happiness 
beyond the bare words you then spoke, and those other 
unframed words you wished to utter and which I longed 
to hear you say. You now speak of duty, but this man- 
ner of duty that you are acting I call murder, for your 
words will hang an innocent man ! " 

" Of whom do you speak, Susie ? whom am I to 
hang by my evidence? " 

" Do you not know ? " 

" I do not." 

" Red-Head. He is charged with poisoning Mr. 
Nordman, and lies now in the jail of Stringtown 
County." 

Suddenly there came into my heart a sensation akin 
to exultation. Red-Head, my antagonist of former 
times, my rival yet, charged with murder, and the evi- 
dence resting in my hands to convict him. Once I had 
a doubt concerning the reaction for strychnine ; I came 
this very evening in a questioning mood, for some things 
concerning the colour were not quite clear ; but there 
was no doubt now. 

" Susie," I said, and I spoke with deliberation, " do 
you remember the evening Red-Head held my hands 
together and sneered in my face, the evening in your 
home when I told him that never again would I fight 
him after the manner brutes fight ? Do you recollect 
that I said the time would come when I could use my 
brain instead of my fists, and predicted that brain would 
win ? Do you recollect that ? " 

The girl no longer shrank from me, she no longer 
stood in supplication, but with erect head and flashing 
eye she answered : " And this you call the triumph of 

347 



Stringtown on the Pike 

brain over muscle ? The unsophisticated country boy 
who lies in the jail of Stringtown County's seat is to be 
hung by you, the professor of chemistry in this great 
University ! The prisoner is defenceless, and yet he is 
as innocent as he is defenceless. When the noose 
tightens about his throat your position as a chemist will 
be established, you say. God help you, man of science, 
you who permit ambition to trample down your love for 
woman, to crush your humanity to man, to break the 
sacred pledge given in confidence to one who trusted 
you ! " 

" Susie, as sure as the sun ever shone I found strych- 
nine in that specimen. As God lives, I swear it. " 

" But if Red-Head dies a criminal and afterward it 
should be proven that there was no strychnine in your 
glasses ? " 

" That day or night — yes, that very hour, I will pay 
the penalty with my own life. I know how to mix 
potions that leave no mark and yet do their work 
promptly. If this be not strychnine my life goes out." 

She turned to the negro, seemingly without having 
heard my fearful pledge. " Bring the money, Cupe ; 
other inducements than the pleadings of a lone girl must 
be made, to affect a man bound to science." 

The negro came forward, bearing a valise, from which 
he took a heavy box ; this he placed on the table near 
me. " Ma'se Sammy, et am de gol' out ob de ole chist 
in de grabeya'd. De false bott'm what de little key 
op'n'd cubbahed what de sheriff could n't fin'," 

He opened the box; it was filled with gold coin; 
never had I seen so much gold, never before had such 
wealth been within my grasp. 

"Take it all, Mr. Drew, and spare Red-Head. I ask 
you to fulfill the promise made me years ago, and I 

348 



Susie Pleads for Red-Head 

bring you here a fee that will exceed many times that 
paid by the prosecutor of Stringtown County. By right 
of priority, by right of a sacred promise, by the profes- 
sional touch of gold, I ask that you serve me and not 
the Commonwealth." 

'' You humiliate me, Susie. I cannot sell myself, you 
know it." 

" Take it all, and keep away from our Court. Let 
the boy live." 

" I shall go to the Court of Stringtown County and 
testify to the truth." My eyes were fixed upon her 
face, my voice was firm and determined. She saw that 
no hope remained. 

"You will regret this decision, but I now say never 
shall your evidence hang Red-Head." 

" But if he is proven guilty ? " 

" He must not hang. Now I shall seek the man who 
will listen to the appeal of justice, who can stand between 
this uncultured country boy and the scaffxald. I came 
to you of my own will, not by the counsel or consent 
of Red-Head. He defies both you and your art; he 
said to me : ' Goto the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, 
take this letter ' " (she drew a letter from her pocket) 
" ' find the man addressed and say to him that Read- 
Head lies in the jail of Stringtown County, charged with 
murder that he did not do.' " 

I reached out my hand ; she did not put the letter into 
it, but held it before my eyes so that I could read the 
superscription : 

Old Man Holcomb, 
Bald Knob, Kentucky. 

She turned to depart, preceded by Cupe, who bore the 
heavy package of gold ; but before she closed the door I 

349 



Stringtown on the Pike 

spoke again : " Susie, the night is dark. Let us forget 
that we have had this difference. May I not go with 
you, Susie ? " 

" I have no fear of any living person. Of the dead 
there is no danger." Then she spoke again one last word 
of appeal. " Mr. Drew, as you value human life ■ — 
and more lives than one must go if Red-Head dies — I 
beg you not to come to the next Court session of 
Stringtown County." 

I shook my head. 

" On your own account I plead with you, do not run 
this great risk. Grant me this little favour." 

Again I refused, and the next moment, alone with my 
thoughts and with my science provings, my beaker 
glasses, test tubes and reagents, I stood questioning the 
future. 



350 



CHAPTER LVIII 

" POW'fUL INTERESTIN' story " (l JOHN, III) 

THE mountains of Eastern Kentucky, their stores 
of endless wealth, of mine, of quarry, and of 
wood, their picturesque knobs and rocks, valleys, tor- 
rents, brooks and solitudes, must one and all be seen to 
be appreciated. 

There are taller mountain chains than these, and 
larger ones, too ; grander canons are to be seen in the 
Yellowstone and along the Colorado, and in the Rockies 
rise higher bluffs of black and red stone. No lava beds 
in these Kentucky mountains speak of volcanic action, 
no volcanic peaks cone the sky. The Laurentian chain 
of Canada bears endless tear-bound firs, these do not ; 
there is no other Tacoma than the one which in Wash- 
ington State glitters in the sunlight and commands 
homage from both the ocean of waters on the west and 
the ocean of sand on the east. And yet while bluff and 
ice and snow and fire and lava are not in the Kentucky 
Mountains as they are elsewhere, charms there are which 
no other chains possess. 

The girl who pleaded with the University professor 
for the life of Red-Head was now traversing these moun- 
tain wilds on the back of a mule. Faithful Cupe trudged 
on foot by her side. For some days they had been 
beyond the track even of mountain wagon wheels. The 
bluffs were either overhanging above or precipitous below, 
but always present. The streams were often bank-full, 
so that in order to progress long circuits were necessary j 

351 



Stringtown on the Pike 

but still she kept on her way, preceded by a young man, 
who spoke but little and seemed concerned only in reach- 
ing his destination. At last they neared a deserted cabin, 
windowless and roofless. The chimney had fallen, the 
logs were decayed and the mud chinking between them 
had disappeared. A brook ran in the gulch near it, 
while behind stretched a rock-clad hog-back hill that 
separated this brook from the stream beyond. Hitching 
their horse in the ravine where ran the trail, the young 
mountaineer tramped a path to the site of the old cabin, 
the girl following. 

"Here's the place," he said, "but et ain't no great 
shakes." 

The girl stood a moment looking at the scene of deso- 
lation, and as she did so her mind reverted to the String- 
town schoolhouse and to the story of the feud related by 
the Red-Headed Boy. The door was gone but frag- 
ments of the casing still hung by two beaten iron nails, 
and the rests for the iron bar that once held the door 
were yet in place in the logs beside the doorway. She 
seated herself on the heavy timber sill. Her eyes fell 
to the projecting log by her side. A dark blue piece of 
metal, partly coated with a white crust, was imbedded in 
the end of it, a piece of metal from which the wood had 
partly rotted away. With her fingers she scraped the 
soft wood mould from about it, and then raised from its 
resting-place a flattened weather-corroded minie bullet, 
around which still were to be seen the creases that once 
held the cartridge shell in place. A shudder came over 
her ; she dropped the fragment into her pocket and raised 
her eyes ; there in the trail below them, the muzzle of a 
long gun in his hand, stood a grizzled old man looking 
intently at that picturesque scene — the beautiful girl 
seemingly so out of place in the doorway of those ruins. 

352 



"Pow'ful Interestin' Story" 

At this instant the young man caught sight of the 
intruder. 

" Thet 's him." 

" Who ? " 

" Old Holcomb." 

The girl arose and started back along the trail, this 
time preceding her companion, back toward the tall man. 
His form was lank and uncouth, his hair thin and white, 
his face covered with a crop of beard that had been 
roughly trimmed with the scissors. He did not speak, 
nor did the girl until she stood close beside him. 

" Are you Mr. Holcomb ? " 

" I 'm Holcomb." 

" I came to bring you a message." 

" From who ? " 

''An enemy." 

" I hain't but one, an' he 's a coward." 

The girl's eyes flashed, her fists clenched hard together, 
the bullet in her pocket burned the flesh it pressed against. 
She took it out and held the disfigured mass of lead 
before his face. 

" He was n't coward enough to shoot an ounce of 
lead through a four-year-old child." 

Not a movement did the man make. His eye pierced 
her through, but she did not flinch. " An' who be yo' 
ter tell Holcomb this; 'dy want ter wedge inter the 
feud ? " 

" Never mind who I am. I know who you are and 
what you did. But I did not seek you to talk over these 
things. I came to deliver a message." She took from 
her pocket the letter she had already shown to Professor 
Drew, and held it out. 

Takmg it, but without opening it, the man asked : 
" An' hev yo' come fur ? " 

'^ 353 



Stringtown on the Pike 

"From Stringtown." 

" Yo' can't git back ter Hawley's claim ter-night, an' 
thet 's the nearest stoppin'-place. Yoah shoes air thin 
an' yo' air shiverin' like a young lamb in sleety weather. 
Yo' wants ter be warmed up an' fed up, an' yo 'd better 
go crost the divide ter my cabin, an' we '11 settle the 
other matter thar. Yo '11 hev ter stay all night ha'ar- 
'bouts." 

These words were spoken in a kindly tone, and the 
girl realised that he told the truth ; but she knew, too, 
that excitement, not cold, was responsible for her shiver- 
ing. Mounting their horses, the two travellers followed 
the old man to his home. 

In the common room, of that cabin, while she sat close 
to the fire, he held the letter long in his hands, turning 
it about and eyeing it curiously. " Guess yo '11 hev ter 
read et ter me," he said ; then tore it open and handed 
it to the girl, who complied, reading as follows : 

HoLCOMB : I 'm Red-Head. I did n't come back ter the 
moun'ns ter finish the feud 'cause I promised Susie not ter fight 
lessen she married Drew. Then I 'tended ter whip Drew first 
an' shoot yo' next. But I can't do either, fo' I'm in jail. 
Drew 's got the pull, too, an' lessen I git help he '11 hang me 
fo' killin' a man I did n't kill. I 'm not a pizoner, an' yo' 
know et. I 'm not a coward, an' yo' know et. What I wants 
is fo' yo' ter come ter Stringtown an' keep me from bein' hung. 
You ain't much ov a friend, but yo've got grit an' got sense 
an' kin shoot, an' that's the kind ov a friend I needs now. 
Yo' know et 'ud disgrace the family yo' fought fer, an' the 
family you fought, fer me ter be hung, an' I mussent be hung. 
Ef yo'll come, tell Susie, 'n she'll tell me. Come ter the 
Stringtown County Court an' stop the hangin' an' end the 
feud. Red-Head. 

When the girl ceased reading Holcomb took the letter 
354 



"Pow'ful Interestin' Story" 

and scrutinised it again. Evidently his thoughts were 
not altogether in ihe present, for after a period of silence 
he musingly remarked : 

" Ef he 's like his kin, et 's the truth he told when he 
said thet he 's not a coward. Them war a brave family, 
an' grit, else thar'd been mo'ah 'n one Holcomb livin'." 

Turning to the girl, he said abruptly : " I 've sot in 
this old cabin nigh onter twenty years waitin' fer Red- 
Head. I 've watched the trail in winter an' laid in the 
shade in summer fightin' sketers an' flies an' keepin' my 
eyes on the path ter git the drop on him befo' he seed 
me. But he didn't come. Then I thunk thet he'd 
turned coward, but no moun'n Nordman ever showed 
the white feather ; 'n he said too when he left : ' Tell 
Holcomb I '11 be back when I kin handle a Springfield 
gun.' An' when I seed yo' two a-ridin' up the gulch 
I felt monstrous good, fer I thought p'raps he 'd come 
back, but without his moun'n manners, fer no moun'n 
man in a feud would hev rid in the open like yo' did. 
An' I saw yo' tramp up ter the old cabin an' sot down 
an' pick the bullet out ov the log. Then yo' saw me, 
fer I seed thet black-ha'red feller war not Red-Head, 
an' stepped inter sight." 

The girl shuddered, and the speaker said : " Sit closer 
ter the fire, little one ; I 'm pow'ful sorry fer sech 
squeemish buds es yo' be." Then he asked : " Red- 
Head 's in jail the writin' sez ? " 

"Yes." 

« Fer killin' a man ? " 

" Yes." 

" War et on the square ? " 

" He did not kill him. Mr. Nordman died suddenly, 
and Red-Head was charged with giving him poison." 

Holcomb sat in silence a time, and then spoke in 
355 



Stringtown on the Pike 

reverie : *' An' he axes help from Holcomb, me who 
wanted to shoot him befo' 1 died, me who killed his 
father an' his mother an' his little sister, me who hev 
lived alone in this cabin fer twenty years beca'se his gun 
an' the guns ov his kin hed killed every other Holcomb 
but me. Et 's a shame thet sech a family es his'n an' 
sech a family es our'n should be disgraced by the puttin' 
ov one ov 'em in jail fer pizonin'. I hates Red-Head 
beca'se of the feud, an' I wants ter shoot him pow'ful 
much, but ef he gits hung we can't fight et out." Turn- 
ing to the girl again, he asked : " Are yo' sure thet he 
did n't pizon the man ? " 

" I know he did not. He swore to me on his bended 
knees that he did not, and — he lores me." 

" An' yo' loves him ? " 

" I am his friend." 

'' Chick " — and the old man reached out his lank 
hand and gently stroked her hair — " chick, Holcomb 
is awful sorry fer you-uns, fer Holcomb es bound ter 
kill thet boy." Then he mused again, " Child, ef 
Holcomb '11 swar' off the feud, an '11 go ter Stringtown 
an' save Red-Head, will yo' marry Red-Head an' move 
ter the moun'ns ? " 

The sirl covered her face with her handkerchief. 

" An' ef Holcomb '11 make over his property ter 
Red-Head an' yo', will yo' name the first boy baby 
Holcomb ? " 

The girl made no reply, but sobbed quietly. 

" Thar ain't no use in sayin' nuthin' mo'ah; you-uns 
understands we-uns, an' yo' may go back ter Stringtown 
an' say ter Red-Head these words : ' Old Holcomb says, 
says he, thet he '11 be on hand when the day comes fer 
business, an' that he'll save the honour ov the two families 
one way er nuther.' Now stop yer cryin', little one, fer 

356 



"Pow'ful Interestin' Story" 

thar ain't no danger ov the shame ov hangin' come'n 
ter Red-Head." 

When " early candle-light " appeared, which was the 
time for retiring, Holcomb brought an antiquated book 
from out the cupboard, a copy of a Bible that had 
once been much used, " Et have been many a day 
sense a woman sot in this cabin. Thet 's the Bible 
ov my gran'mam, whose great gran' mam brought et 
from Inglan'. After she died et war read by my wife 
every night, an' war being read by her that night when 
Red-Head's dad shot through the winder 'n killed our 
boy, who wah pow'ful religious, too." He turned the 
leaves of the book, evidently seeking a certain chapter, 
but as he could not read, Susie wondered how he ex- 
pected to locate it. Suddenly he stopped. " Thet 's 
the place now." A great brown blot of irregular 
shape was splotched over one of the yellowed sheets. 
" Thet 's the blood ov the boy. Mam never finished 
the chapter, she could n't b'ar ter look at the place ag'in. 
I 've wanted ter hev et read out fer twenty years, fer 
et 's a pow'ful interestin' story. Ef yo' '11 jest read the 
chapter out we '11 hev prayers, an' then yo' kin go ter 
bed in the nex' room." And when Susie had finished 
reading the " pow'ful interestin' story " ( i John, iii.) 
Holcomb said : " Them 's my sentiments too," then 
kneeled and offered up prayers in a homely way that 
spoke of his earnestness and faith in the teachings of 
his parents, "Now, chick," said Holcomb, "yo''ll 
sleep in the nex' room, 'n this young feller 'n me '11 
sleep in this 'n. The nigger kin go ter the outside 
cabin." 

" Ef yo' please, sah, Mr. Holcom', de nigger '11 jes lie 
down befo' de doah ob de room de chile sleeps in. He 
doan 'tend ter run no risk ob cotchin' cole in de wood- 

357 



Stringtown on the Pike 

shed, an' he doan 'tend ter hab de chile in one house an' 
Cupe be in de uddah. Ef de Susie gearl speaks in de 
night, Cupe '11 be in his place befo' de doah." 

Next morning the three persons, old Holcomb in 
front, returned along the mountain trail. All day long, 
with his heavy rifle over his shoulder, the old man con- 
tinued in the advance ; finally, near sundown, he relin- 
quished his charge to a man who stood before a double 
cabin near the road, and who in some manner had been 
advised of their approach and was expecting them. 
" Yo '11 stop fer the night ha'ar, an' in the mornin' he '11 
see yo' ter the next stop. Thar ain't no danger ter yo' 
in these moun'ns now, fer Holcomb hev passed the word 
'long thet yo 're his friend an' air ter be shown ter the 
stage line. Et 's sure death ter the feller what troubles 

yo'." 

Taking the hand of the girl in his rough palm, the old 
man again stroked her hair with the other, as he had done 
in the cabin, gently, tenderly ; then in a low tone, very 
low, said : " An' yo '11 name the first boy Holcomb, 
won't yo', jest fer the honour ov the two families, an' fer 
the sake ov the old man who hain't no kin left ter leave 
his name to ? " Then without waiting a reply, he added : 
" Tell Red-Head ter rest easy, fer Holcomb '11 be on 
hand an' stop the hangin' sure ; ef thar ain't one way 
ter do et, thar air another ; thar '11 not be no disgrace of 
hanging on yo-uns an' we-uns, child." He turned and 
left the party in the hands of their new protector, and in 
the dusk of evening passed from sight up the gorge that 
led back into the higher mountains. 



358 



CHAPTER LIX 

"more lives than one must go if red-head 

DIES " 

THE day arrived for me, the chemist of the Univer- 
sity, to return to Stringtown on my professional 
errand, and I decided to start the week previous to the 
convening of the quarterly Court. Carefully collecting 
the reagents, apparatus and the specimens of the contents 
of the suspected stomach, I next fortified myself with my 
books of authority. These were packed in a specially 
arranged valise, which, I may add, I did not this time 
lug across the Suspension Bridge which stretched be- 
tween Cincinnati and Covington. 

Sleepy old Stringtown was reached at last, and there 
at the door of our old home stood my mother. She was 
feeble now — I caught that fact from afar — her hair, 
too, was very white. I shall say nothing regarding our 
meeting, which concerns ourselves alone. That even- 
ing 1 walked down the narrow sidewalk toward the 
grocery store of Mr. Cumback, meeting a few old 
friends on the way and several strangers. I opened the 
door of the grocery, the door against the glass of which 
years before I had seen the white face of a rebel soldier 
press ; that very pane of glass was in place, for I recog- 
nised it by a well-known blemish across its centre. A 
circle of men sat around the old stove, and Mr. Cum- 
back stood behind the counter. Most of the members 
were new to me, although three of the old-time partici- 

359 



Stringtown on the Pike 

pants were present. But how changed ! Judge Elford 
was grand in his venerable, patriarchal appearance, very 
feeble but his intellectuality had not diminished ; white 
was every thread of his beard and of his flowing hair. 
He arose as I entered and grasped my hand ; his eye 
pierced me through, but very kindly was that eye- 
greeting. ^' Welcome back to Stringtown, Sammy," he 
said; " these years we have been expecting you on old 
friendship's account, but now that you come on profes- 
sional business we are not less delighted to greet you. 
You honour us, my boy. We have kept watch of 
your upward course, and hope that you will never forget 
that your land is Kentucky, that you were once a 
Stringtown boy, and that here you have many friends." 
Then Professor Drake took his turn, giving my hand a 
gentle grasp. " Sorry you did not come last night, Mr. 
Drew, for I read a paper on evolution and talked about 
that very interesting subject. You could have given us 
much information concerning it. Don't fail to help 
your old friends by a good word, Samuel, whenever 
occasion permits it." 



360 



CHAPTER LX 

TROUBLE IN STRINGTOWN COUNTY COURT 

JUDGE ELFORD arose, and locking his arm in 
mine moved toward the door, as he did so excusing 
both of us to the circle. " Mr. Drew will return an- 
other evening," he remarked. " I would speak to him 
in the quiet of my home to-night." Something in the 
tone of his voice led me to know that he wished to talk 
seriously in private, and as if to impress the fact more 
emphatically, we walked in silence to his home. 

," Did you notice the tall, white-haired man who left 
the room before we did ? " he abruptly asked. 

"Yes." 

" That man has been in Stringtown for a week. He 
stops at the tavern, but has no business here, unless it 
be in connection with this case in which you are con- 
cerned. He has been asking questions of all kinds re- 
garding Red-Head and yourself, and has inquired into 
every detail of the poisoning affair. He has interested 
himself in Red-Head's record since he came among us 
as a boy. That he is not alone is shown by the fact 
that many uncouth men call to see him, but they soon 
depart. The rumour has gotten out that he is a friend 
of Red-Head, from the mountains, and that a scheme 
for the boy's rescue is contemplated." 

" And how am I concerned. Judge ? " 

" That I shall now tell you, Sammy. Would to God 
361 



Stringtown on the Pike 

you had kept out of this case ! You were asked to re- 
main away from Stringtown until after Court week, were 
you not ? " His eyes were upon me. 

"Yes." 

" And the messenger told you that such was also my 
desire and advice .'' " 

"Yes." 

" Did you forget that twice you promised to follow 
my advice when the time arrived for me to serve you by 
asking you to grant me a favour ? " 

1 made no reply. 

" As a judge, sworn to do the duty of a judge to this 
great Commonwealth of Kentucky, I could not well do 
more. As a friend to you, I could not do less. Why 
did you not take the advice of your two friends ? " Be- 
fore I could answer, had I any reply to make, he contin- 
ued : " Ugly things are being said in Stringtown. The 
people of Stringtown County, too, are concerned in this 
case, more so even than when old Cupe was tried for 
stealing the gold. There are factions among us, and 
some viciousness begins to creep out ; not that Red-Head 
has made friends, but that this thing of sending outside 
the State for an expert to testify against one of our citi- 
zens is an innovation." 

" But why do they accept that my testimony will 
be against him ? " 

" Because you are engaged by the prosecution, and 
people believe that chemical experts sell their evidence 
and give their testimony to support the claims of the side 
that engages them ; and," he added, " it also seems to 
me that expert chemical testimony is not always on the 
highest moral plane." 

" But I surely found strychnine. Judge ; should I not 
give my evidence ? " 

362 



Trouble in Stringtown Court 

" It is now too late to retreat, and for this reason I 
would speak to you in confidence, Sammy. Your father 
was my friend ; you need advice, as I once felt you 
might, and even though I am to be the judge of this 
case, I am in duty bound to give it." 

" You have my thanks for your interest, and I regret 
now that I did not take the hint you sent by Susie." 

"• Had I not believed that you would listen to her 
pleadings, I might have made it stronger, but it is now 
too late. Sammy," he continued, " are you satisfied con- 
cerning the chemical provings you have made ? " 

"I am." 

" Is it not probable, or at least possible, that you place 
too great credence in statements made by authorities in 
whom you confide .'' " 

"No, for I have verified the reactions." 

" May not conditions unknown to you induce other 
bodies than strychnine to give the same reactions ? " 

" Positively not." 

" Are you " — he hesitated slightly — " proof against 
prejudice that on the one hand binds you to blind confi- 
dence in scientific methods, and on the other hand leads 
you to desire to help the side that secured your services ? " 

I winced, for I felt the thrust even through the kindly 
tone of the judge. 

" I am a man of science, and free from prejudice." 

" The faith you men of science have in human au- 
thority, and the sneers you cast on the Supreme Ruler, 
and the dogmatic conclusions of men who search in fields 
your science is too feeble to invade, seem to me very 
near man-worship or egotistical fanaticism. Sir" — 
he spoke severely now — "I fail to see the difference 
between your blind allegiance to ever-changing science 
and the fanatical faith of a superstitious slave bound to 

363 



Stringtown on the Pike 

signs and omens, which result from the empirical obser- 
vation of cycles of phenomena ; but let that thought pass 
and turn to your own self. Are you free from human 
error ? " 

" Yes, in this case, for I have gone over the reactions 
again and again," 

" Enough, Sammy, enough ; would that I, too, felt 
this same confidence in man's infallibility and in the sci- 
ence that holds you in her toils. I am an old man, my 
child, and have met many dramatic and pathetic experi- 
ences. I have seen men shot in the heat of passion, and 
have sentenced men to the gallows on the testimony of 
witnesses who saw the plunge of the knife or the flash 
of the pistol held by the murderer. But never yet have 
I been forced to condemn a man to the gallows on the 
evidence of a person who was in another State at the 
time of the murder, who not only did not see the crime 
committed, but who knew nothing about its occurrence. 
And, Sammy, while duty to the Commonwealth will not 
permit me ever to shrink from doing my duty to man 
and men, in all earnestness I pray God to strike me dead 
before on the expert testimony of Samuel Drew I am 
forced to hang this boy. Mark well your words, Sammy ; 
on them rests a human life. A defenceless man to whom 
life is sweet lies now in the Stringtown County jail, — 
one from whom no man has the right unlawfully to take 
one bright day. Mark well, too, the position of your old 
friend, the judge, who begs you to err on the side of hu- 
manity rather than to do a wrong in the belief that sci- 
ence is infallible. Give this helpless man the benefit of 
every doubt, whether it humiliates your science, disturbs 
your dogmatism, or checks your ambition. In after 
years you will find that you have made no mistake." 

I arose to go, arose without conceding that there was 
364 



Trouble in Stringtown Court 

a chance for me to err or relent. At the door the judge 
held my hand long, and after bidding me good-bye said, 
in the most earnest tone I had ever known him to use : 
" God grant, Samuel Drew, that you do not cause me 
to hang an innocent man ; " and after I had passed from 
his door he called me back. " Sammy, there will be 
trouble next week ; bear up bravely, dare to do right 
even though it be at ambition's expense. Sammy," and 
his voice sank very low, almost to a whisper, as his lips 
spoke into my ear, " keep what I say in confidence. 
The old man you saw leave the grocery is named Hol- 
comb ; he came to me last night and I drew up his will. 
He left all his possessions, both real and personal, to 
Red-Head and Susie, share and share alike ; but said 
he, ' In case Red-Head dies — and he may die suddenly, 
but will never be hung — it must all go to the girl Susie.' 
There '11 be trouble in Stringtown County Court next 
week, Sammy." 

I attempted to withdraw my hand, but the speaker 
firmly held it and continued : 

" This is Kentucky, not Ohio ; Kentucky, Sammy." 

From the door of Judge Elford I turned with heavy 
heart and lagging footstep toward the home of my 
mother, realising now that the coming week would bring 
a death crisis to some one I knew, and for the first time 
I appreciated the fact that I was not a mere onlooker. 

These closing words were in my mind when I raised 
my eyes from the ground because of a step that sounded 
on the stones ahead of me. A tall form came into the 
moonlight, passed me close and disappeared behind me. 
It was the old man from the mountains. 



365 



CHAPTER LXI 

SUSIE, RED-HEAD, AND MYSELF AGAIN 

THE morning of the trial dawned, and I entered the 
special bus that had been engaged to take two 
attorneys, the judge, a few close friends of these gentle- 
men — a few jurymen among them — and myself to 
Court. It was the way that I had passed to the trial 
of Cupe. 

I looked neither to the right nor to the left as we 
passed through the village, but followed Judge Elford to 
the court-house, where I felt a sensation of relief as I 
entered the portals of that stone building, with its great 
round pillars in front and its iron-barred jail in the rear. 
I then held my final audience with the prosecuting 
attorney, and at last stepped into the court-room of 
Stringtown County. 

The judge sat in his place exactly as he did when 
last I saw him, years ago, in that same seat. Time had 
enfeebled him physically, but not mentally, for that fine 
intellectual face and placid brow were surely the more 
impressive by reason of the lines that age had deepened, 
and by the touch of brighter silver left in his snow-white 
beard and hair. 

The jury was in its place, its members typical of the 
former jury before which in this very room I had been 
a witness ; some of them may have been the same indi- 
viduals. Before each man stood that ever-present box 
of sawdust, and from the movement of their jaws or the 

366 



Susie, Red-Head, and Myself 

pouched cheek it could be seen that none needed to be 
instructed concerning the object of these utensils. I 
seated myself by the side of the prosecuting attorney, 
and then raised my eyes to the chair where sat the man 
charged with murder, the very place and apparently the 
same chair in which Cupe once sat. His hair was red 
as of yore, sorrel-red, like no other hair I had ever seen ; 
his eyes were fixed on my face, those same little yellow 
eyes ; his red ears and that florid face covered with 
freckles were before me again, lanker and longer was 
that crimson neck. I looked him square in the eye, 
and then my glance, not his, fell to the floor, but not 
before I caught a glimpse of a gentle movement of the 
left ear, the mocking movement familiar in other years, 
and I knew that he yet defied me. 

When next I raised my eyes they caught the form of 
the sheriff, who with a brace of pistols in his leather belt 
stood close to the prisoner, and then I turned to the 
audience. The room was filled with men, and no one 
needed to tell me they were from both near and far. 
I recognised many Stringtown men, I also saw many 
whom I felt were men of Stringtown County, and there, 
too, sat the tall man from the mountains of Kentucky. 
In full view of the prisoner, neither seemed to notice 
the other. He was flanked on either side by a line of 
men dressed in the same manner as himself; indeed, I 
should say that he formed the central figure of a group 
distinct from our home folks, but they seemed not to 
know each other. 

And then my eyes turned toward the front row, 
scanning each face until they rested on that of one I 
had not thought to meet again in the Court of String- 
town County. There sat Susie, her eyes fixed on 
space. My heart fluttered and I wished that instead 

367 



Stringtown on the Pike 

of sitting by the prosecutor I were in the place of old 
negro Cupe, who sat by her side. Then came a mental 
inventory, and by a mind-flash I saw that we three, 
Susie, Red-Head and myself, were once more con- 
fronting one another and our fate ; and I saw too, that 
seemingly we had drawn into the turmoil all who both 
loved and hated us, and it seemed to me as though, be it 
superstition or not, every condition necessary to a tragic 
end of one or all was now perfected. I knew the nature 
of the men about, I knew that many men had but to 
put their hands inside their coats to defend their honour 
or their friends, and I realised, too, that every man 
present knew both his enemy and his friend ; but no 
evidence of this fact could be seen in face or action. 
Then I turned again to Judge Elford, he whom every 
man in the room respected, he who stood now before 
all this assemblage sworn to sift the right from the 
wrong, and who I knew — for he had told me so — 
believed that before this case closed some of those 
present would have seen their last of earth. 

The case opened in the usual way, and interest soon 
centred in the evidence that came rapidly before the 
Court and jury. The prosecution announced that it 
intended to prove that poison was the cause of Mr. 
Nordman's death and that the drug had been purchased 
by the prisoner, and administered by him to the victim. 
To this the attorneys for the defence interposed a denial, 
feebly it seemed to me, although it is possible that being 
in the dark concerning the nature of the evidence to be 
offered, they could not in opening make their denial 
stronger. As the trial progressed it could be seen that 
the judge proposed to confine both parties to a strict 
statement of fact, for every attempt to interject side 
issues or to go into personalities was skilfully defeated 

368 



Susie, Red-Head, and Myself 

by his rulings, and yet the day passed before the prose- 
cutor was ready to call me as a witness. Every step 
was tenaciously combated by counsel for the defence, 
who, as the theory of the prosecution unfolded itself, 
became aggressively violent and left no stone unturned 
in his attempt to discredit a witness or cast a doubt on 
the evidence. When time for adjournment came that 
night, the prosecution had proven : 

First. That Red-Head and Mr. Nordman had quar- 
relled a few days previously to his death. It was 
shown that, out of patience with his indolent habits, 
Mr. Nordman had that day scolded him for not work- 
ing. The witness who testified to this stripped tobacco 
in Mr. Nordman's barn and heard every word of the 
altercation, and also heard Red-Head swear that he 
would be revenged. 

Second. The village druggist testified that he sold 
Red-Head one-eighth ounce of strychnine. His book of 
poison sales on which the entry had been made and dated 
was produced and admitted as evidence. The prisoner 
had stated that the strychnine was for Mr. Nordman, 
who desired to put it in the carcass of a lamb that had 
been killed by foxes, which latter he hoped to kill when 
they returned to feed, the coming night. 

Third. The servants testified that Mr. Nordman 
arose in good health the morning of his death, ate a light 
breakfast, as was his habit, and that Red-Head alone 
breakfasted with him. Very soon thereafter he was 
stricken with a severe pain in the stomach, and then 
they gave him a dose of laudanum and called the 
physician. 

Fourth. The physician testified that he found Mr. 
Nordman in great pain, muscular convulsions having set 
in and paralysis of the legs. He administered an emetic, 
24 369 



Stringtown on the Pike 

to which, however, the patient did not freely respond. 
In reply to a direct question of the prosecutor, the wit- 
ness said that the case presented all the symptoms of 
strychnine poisoning. 

This closed the evidence of the day, and I was in- 
formed by the prosecution that my testimony would be 
taken immediately after Court convened the next 
morning. 



370 



CHAPTER LXII 

" THE FEUD IS OVER, HOLCOMB " 

THAT night I awoke often, for in my ears rang 
again and again the words of Judge Elford : 
" You will hang the prisoner, Sammy." 

That sentence still dominated my mind when Court 
convened next morning; but when I looked at the pre- 
siding judge no evidence of emotion on his part could be 
seen ; passive and composed he sat looking about the 
room, apparently as unconscious of personal responsibility 
as any of the spectators. I seated myself by the side of 
the prosecutor and proceeded to arrange my specimens, 
reagents and the apparatus. The eyes of all in the 
Court were now concentrated on me, even to that of 
the prisoner, who, scarce ten feet distant, sat beside the 
armed sheriff. Seemingly absorbed in manipulative 
operations, I yet noticed every movement of those about 
me ; from time to time I raised my eyes only to catch 
the fixed gaze of whomsoever they rested on, whereso- 
ever they turned — jurymen, sheriff, attorney for the 
prosecution and for the defence, Holcomb from the 
mountains, Cupe, Red-Head and Susie, all — all I say 
but one, Judge Elford. He seemed unconcerned regard- 
ing either my presence or my movements. 

That he awaited my convenience I knew, and that 
this famous case had drawn itself down and had focussed 
itself on me I also knew. Amid intense stillness, friend 
and foe, faction, feudist, judge, prisoner and jury were 

371 



Stringtown on the Pike 

awaiting my voice. I turned my eyes to the jury ; not 
a mouth was in motion, firm set were each pair of jaws, 
never before had such a thing been known in Kentucky. 
The last touch was given the vessels before me, and then 
I whispered to the attorney by whose side I sat : " I am 
ready," and raised my eyes to the face of the judge, 
who, catching the movement, without awaiting voice to 
bid him open the Court, bade me arise. A strange inno- 
vation did he then make, an innovation that struck me 
to the heart ; for instead of turning me over to the clerk 
to be sworn, as had been done with all other witnesses, 
he too arose, and before him I held up my hand, and 
from him came in deep, measured tones the question of 
that solemn oath : " Do you solemnly swear to tell the 
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth .? " 

" I do." 

My voice startled me. If any man who reads these 
lines could have been in my place, he too would have 
been startled by that first word. The past, with its pre- 
sentiments and omens, now crystallising into form, the 
midnight pleadings of the girl I loved, the solemn advice 
of Judge Elford, yet were in my ear. The ominous 
circle before me, the doubt concerning the reception of 
my testimony, and lastly the pensive face of Susie to my 
right and the hateful face of Red-Head to my left were 
enough to dispossess one more experienced. But the 
sensation that followed these words passed and in the 
calm that followed I became myself, ready to protect my 
reputation. I looked at Red-Head ; his gaze was fixed 
on me ; our eyes met, and I saw in them the full 
measure of hate I felt in my own heart ; and then I 
said to myself: "If I don't hang that fellow he will 
shoot me dead when next we meet. If brain does not 
conquer now, it will be muscles' turn next." Point by 

372 



"The Feud is Over, Holcomb" 

point the prosecution drew from me the statement that I 
had examined the suspected liquid for all known poisons, 
both inorganic and organic. And then I was led to the 
reactions of strychnine and to its location among the 
poisons. These I gave in detail, the particulars of which 
need not be repeated, and finally I was asked : 

" Did you get those reactions from the substance 
tested ? " 

" 1 did." 

" Have you specimens of the substance ? " 

" I have." 

" Can you show the jury and the Court the group test 
for alkaloids and also the colour of reactions of strych- 
nine ? " 

" I can." 

" I ask, then, that Professor Drew be allowed to cor- 
roborate his testimony by experiments that will substanti- 
ate his words ; " and on this point, after a legal battle 
with the attorneys for the defence, the judge ruled in 
our favour. Then I made the tests for alkaloids with 
the group reagents showing the presence of alkaloids. 
Next I made the respective colour test with morphine 
which did not respond and then with strychnine which 
did, each juryman craning his neck close about me in 
order to get a good view of the purple or blue-violet 
colour that sprang into existence in that porcelain dish, 
where the strychnine test was applied, to fade away into 
green and red. 

" That is the reaction of strychnine," I said, and 
proved it by means of a crystal of pure strychnine. 

Then came the final question : " You swear that you 
found strychnine in the contents of that stomach ? " 

"I do." 

Opposing counsel now viciously assailed me, but to 
373 



Stringtown on the Pike 

no avail, for I brought forth my authorities and showed 
that this test was accepted by chemists of the world, and 
that Fowne, Fresenius, Turner, all considered it conclu- 
sive, and at last triumphant, I was dismissed. 

Judge Elford now came down from his chair. " Re- 
peat the tests that I may see them close," he said. He 
stood over me, and side by side, both with strychnine 
and the suspected substance, I gave the test for alkaloids 
and also the colour test for strychnine. The same violet- 
blue colour came with both. 

" Will no other substance produce that reaction ? " 

" None." 

" This is a great world ; there are many countries in 
it ; do none of the thousands of forms of vegetation in 
these various lands act as does this substance ? " He 
spoke into my very ear. 

" Not to my knowledge. Science says no." 

" The servants administered a dose of laudanum, and 
laudanum contains morphine. Is not morphine an 
alkaloid ? " 

" Yes ; I have testified to the fact that I also obtained 
the colour reaction of morphine, but that alkaloid will 
not give this strychnine reaction. Morphine is present, 
so is strychnine." 

" Have you tried this test with every plant, shrub, 
tree, leaf, root, bark, fruit, that grows ? " 

« No, sir ! " 

" Have you tried it with all that grow in Stringtown 
County ? " 

" No, sir ! " 

" Have you tried it with all that grow in and about 
Stringtown village ? " 

" No, sir ! " 

" Have you applied this test to every form of herb, 
374 



"The Feud is Over, Holcomb" 

fruit, vegetable, grass, leaf, that grows on the farm of 
the late Mr. Nordman ? " 

" No, sir ! " 

" Or in his dooryard ? " 

" No, sir ! " 

" Can you, then, in the face of the fact that you have 
not tested these myriads of other substances, swear that 
this is strychnine ? " 

" On the strength of these authorities " — I pointed 
to my books — " and on my investigations, and on the 
fact that no other known bodies produce the same reac- 
tions, I can." 

" You revived the strychnine crystals, it seems " — 
he pointed to the microscopic slide. 

" Yes, sir ! " 

" Will no other substance produce such needle-like 
crystals ? " 

" I know of none to do so and then react as they do." 

" Would it not have been well to get from the con- 
tents of that stomach enough of the pure strychnine 
to kill a rabbit, and show its poisonous action in that 
way ? " 

" I had not enough of the material." 

" You are willing " — and now the judge spoke very 
slowly and deliberately — "you are willing, then, Samuel 
Drew, before Almighty God, knowing that on your 
words hangs the life of a human being, to swear that 
strychnine, only strychnine, nothing but strychnine, 
could have produced that reaction ? " 

" I am." 

The eyes of the man of justice fell upon his book, 
and he made a note. I turned my eyes to the prisoner ; 
he sneered in return. I sought the face of Susie, but no 
expression other than sadness could be seen. Then the 

375 



Stringtown on the Pike 

attorney said, " The witness may be excused," and I 
turned my gaze upon the floor. After the cross-exam- 
ination which did not in any way break the force of the 
evidence the case was ready for the defence, the prosecu- 
tion having proved : 

First. Mr. Nordman and Red-Head had quarrelled. 

Second. Red-Head had bought strychnine of the vil- 
lage druggist. 

Third. Mr. Nordman had been suddenly stricken by 
a severe pain in his stomach, accompanied by paroxysmal 
muscular contractions. 

Fourth. Strychnine was present in the contents of the 
stomach. 

But night was on us again, and Court now adjourned. 
The next day was consumed in evidence for the defence, 
then came the rebuttal by the prosecution, which right 
was waived. 

The fourth morning found the audience in place ; had 
photographs been taken, the same faces would have been 
seen in the same places, so far as the persons directly 
interested in the case were concerned. I do not like to 
reflect over the address of the attorney for the defence, 
who, following the opening speech of the prosecution, 
and realising that the evidence was against him, turned 
all his eloquence in the direction of emotional humanity. 
He depicted the unfortunate position of the homeless, 
helpless young man before us. He pictured my conspic- 
uous place in life ; he drew the sympathies of that audi- 
ence to the prisoner, and upon me he directed their ill-will 
and scowls. Hatred flashed from many an eye as he 
took that little porcelain dish in his hand, and said : 
" That man comes here from the North, he touches a 
liquid with a bit of stuff, and it turns blue, violet-blue, 
for an instant. He asks you, men of Stringtown County, 

376 



"The Feud is Over, Holcomb" 

CO hang a resident of Stringtown County because this 
blue colour cornea in a dish. Kentuckians, did ever 
Kentucky Court witness such a farce ? When a man 
plunges a knife into another, a witness may swear to the 
fact, for that is evidence of fact. When a witness 
swears that he saw the flash of the gun or pistol, and saw 
the victim fall, that is competent testimony ; but when a 
man comes from afar and touches a dish with a glass 
rod, and asks you to hang a Kentuckian because a spot 
of porcelain turns purple, that is audacious presumption, 
and is neither evidence nor testimony. Kentuckians, I 
swear by all that is holy, that if you become a party to 
this monstrous crime, a few dollars hereafter will hire a 
horde of hungry chemists from the North to show a 
colour in a dish to whoever cares wrongly to gain an in- 
heritance or wishes to hang an enemy. There will 
scarcely be time to keep the gallows oiled, so rapid will 
be the hangings in Kentucky. No rich man will rest in 
his grave with a whole stomach, for these ghouls will 
find chemists to swear that all who die are poisoned." 

Turning to me, he shook his finger in my face. 
" There sits a man who lived once in Stringtown, who 
should love his village and his State, but who comes back 
to us to hang the companion of his youth. He and the 
prisoner were boys together, they sat in the same school- 
house, played in the same schoolyard, lived in the same 
village. One is a /«<?«, the other a chetjiist ! but I say 
in all earnestness, that I would rather be the innocent 
Kentuckian who hangs — the man^ my friends — than the 
renegade who hangs him ! " The attack was vicious, and 
I realised that his words could move men to violence had 
no violence been previously contemplated. Why did 
Judge Elford allow this personal attack, some persons 
may ask ? It was not his place to prevent the defence 

377 



Stringtown on the Pike 

from breaking my testimony by any method possible, 
and when the attorney was through I realised that, re- 
gardless of the verdict, I was disgraced in the land of my 
old home, and I felt, too, that men present were ready, 
perhaps by violence, to take the part of Red-Head, 
should the jury decide that he must hang. 

But the closing argument of the prosecution modified 
conditions somewhat, and the charge of the judge to the 
jury was so clear and comprehensive as to leave no cause 
of complaint by either party. 

" The evidence is circumstantial, but it is necessarily 
so in cases such as this, for those who poison others are 
never seen to do the act. They are like thugs who lie 
concealed in the night and deal a man a blow from be- 
hind. And yet," he added, "not only must the jury be 
convinced beyond a doubt that the prisoner bought the 
strychnine, but that strychnine was in the stomach, and 
that the prisoner administered it. If such has been 
proven by the testimony offered, the prisoner is as much 
subject to the severest penalty of the law as though he 
had fired a bullet into the victim." 

Much more did this learned man say to those who 
held the life of the prisoner in their hands; coolly, im- 
partially, clearly, was the charge given. After the judge 
concluded that afternoon the jury retired, and then we 
sat awaiting their return, — sat until the evening's shad- 
ows were nearly on us. 

No longer an object of attention, I changed my place 
to one of less conspicuity. I drew my chair back into a 
corner made by the witness box and the prisoner's raised 
platform, and from that position found that I could 
observe the entire room, and be less exposed to peering 
eyes. To my left sat the judge, to my right, in the 



"The Feud is Over, Holcomb " 

second row of spectators, sat Susie and Cupe, and 
directly in front of me the prisoner. By his side stood 
the sheriff with exposed pistols ready for a touch, and 
beyond these two, nearly in line with them, sat old man 
Holcomb amid his men from the mountains. When I 
looked at Red-Head, I could see the sheriff and Hol- 
comb, for they were all in line and covered by the same 
field of vision. Buzzing voices broke now upon the ear, 
for during the recess the tongues of the men of String- 
town and of Stringtown County were loosed. I fancied, 
too, that many coats that had been buttoned previously 
were now open, but this may have been fancy. 

How would these men take the verdict of the jury in 
case it was against the prisoner ? What would be their 
programme ? I looked at Holcomb ; he made no move- 
ment, nor yet did any of his clan. Red-Head sat impas- 
sive ; Susie's eyes were downcast; Cupe seemed to be 
asleep ; Judge Elford rested his head on his hand, and 
tapped the desk gently with a pencil ; the armed sheriff 
stood upright and still. Then at last came a message 
to the judge, who sent back an order, and soon the jury 
filed slowly into the room and stood in line while the 
foreman presented a folded paper : 

" We do hereby find the prisoner guilty of murder in 
the first degree." 

Then Judge Elford rose, and as he did so I caught his 
glance, and so did others, for he swept his eyes about the 
room, resting them now and then on a face. Finally 
they turned to the prisoner. " Stand up, prisoner," and 
Red-Head arose. 

Slowly, distinctly, the judge pronounced the sentence 
of death. Had I been the murderer the message could 
not have affected nor shocked me more. Not a muscle 
did Red-Head move, not a tremor in his frame, not an 

379 



Stringtown on the Pike 

evidence of fear or shame did he exhibit. And when 
the words were spoken, " I do hereby sentence you to 
be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God 
have mercy on your soul ! " he gave no show of emotion. 
But I saw him glance toward old Holcomb, who then 
awkwardly arose, a picturesque figure, and amid silence 
as intense as that in which Cupe figured in this same 
room many years before, he politely asked of the judge : 

" Is thar no hope fer the boy, Jedge ? Kin an old 
friend from the moun'ns do nuthin' fer the lad ? " 

" Nothing." 

'' Ef I '11 go down ter whar he stan's an' take his 
place — will yo' let the boy go free ? " 

" I cannot." 

" Et 's a life yo' wants, yo' man ov law, a life fer a 
life, but et seems ter me thet et ain't fair ter take a 
young one fer thet ov the old man who bed lived his'n 
away. I 'm old, Jedge, an' the boy 's young ; take me 'n 
let him live et out." 

" I cannot." 

" He 's the last ov his fam'ly, Jedge, an' I 'm the last 
ov mine. Thar ain't no hopes fer me, but the boy hes 
prospects." 

The judge shook his head. 

Holding out his left hand and pointing his long finger 
at the upright prisoner, whom he faced, the old man 
slowly said : " He an' his'n killed every Holcomb but 
me, an' me an' mine killed every moun'n Nordman but 
him Thar's a feud betwixt him an' me, an' et must 
be fought ter the end fer the honor ov the two fam'lies 
what 's dead." 

Then came a movement so quick that I, who had 
both Holcomb and the prisoner in line, hardly caught its 
import before the deed was done. The right hand of 

380 



''The Feud is Over, Holcomb." 

the old man suddenly drew a pistol from some unseen 
pocket, and with one sweep of the arm discharged it full 
into the chest of Red-Head, who, with eye close fixed 
on the speaker, as that movement was begun, caught 
one of the weapons from out the belt of the sheriff. 
Younger, quicker and more expert, his hand was not less 
sure ; the two flashes lighted the room as if but one, the 
two reports were simultaneous. 

A drop of blood sprang into view, just in the centre 
of the forehead of the old man, who dropped lifeless into 
the arms of his companions. The prisoner stood up- 
right ; his face turned white, his lips moved slowly, and 
as by a mighty effort he said : " The feud is over, 
Holcomb." He struggled to stand, and murmured : " I 
did n't pizon Uncle Nordman ; I shoots like a man ; 
et 's a lie, I say." Then he sank slowly into his seat, 
raised his head by one last effort and muttered : " Bury 
me beside ov little Sissie in the mou'ns, and bury the 
doll with me. I hain't no other friends but Susie and 
the doll." 

I, who sat near him, heard every word and saw every 
movement he made. That flash came from a weapon 
which did not rest, that bullet went straight to its mark 
in the dusk of evening from a moving pistol ; and then 
I thought of the five holes in a circle around a centre 
shot made on a mark in the Stringtown schoolyard in 
the years that had passed. 



381 



CHAPTER LXIII 

A STRANGE LOVE-STORY 

NEITHER the next day nor yet the day following 
did I return to the University. I had arranged 
for an absence of two weeks, and of this three days 
remained. Fortunate is it that this was so, for I was 
not in condition to attend to my class duties. The 
tragic ending of that trial unnerved me. In the privacy 
of my home I repented over and again of my course in 
the matter of this expert testimony ; not that I had any 
question concerning its scientific accuracy and truthful- 
ness, but because I appreciated that I had gone out of 
my way to assume a responsibility I could easily have 
declined. The penitence I did involved no change of 
character, and probably had I to do the work over again 
I would have made no change of conduct. The vicious 
personal attack of that lawyer for the defence ran ever 
through my ears, the pleadings of Susie in my laboratory 
the night of the storm, and the generous entreaty of 
Judge Elford in the privacy of his home — in which he 
asked God to strike him lifeless rather than that he 
should be forced to make a death charge on the expert 
testimony of a chemist — would not be quieted. To 
this may be added the effect produced by the dramatic 
climax of the trial and the last words of Red-Head, 
spoken when, for the first time, the only time, his skin 
was white. I visited no one in Stringtown, I saw no 

382 



A Strange Love-Story 

one, and yet, I r-^peat, not yet was it remorse that pos- 
sessed me. The second day of my seclusion passed, and 
late that afternoon came a double surprise. Old Cupe 
appeared bearing a letter to my mother, who retired from 
the room to read it, leaving Cupe standing near where I 
was seated. I exchanged a pleasantry with the negro, 
to which he replied in his usual polite manner. Then 
he added : 

" Ma'se Samuel, yo '11 'scuse de ole man ef he ax a 
quistion ? " 

" Surely, Cupe." 

" Et seems t' de fool nigger es ef Red-Head might 
hab been alibe had he gone back t' de mount'ns 'bout 
ten yeahs ago ? " 

« Yes, Cupe." 

" An' he would hab gone but fo' Susie." 

" Probably." 

" An' ef yo' had not come back t' tole de trufF 'bout de 
pizon, recken de jidge might hab let him gone scott free ? " 

« Possibly." 

" De fool sign what yo' might hab fergot 'bout said 
dat Red-Head 'ud die sudden an' dat Susie an' yo' 'ud 
be de cause ob et. Fool sign, nigger sign, yo' know." 

" Yes." 

" But et 's monstrous cu'yus how et jes happened t' 
come true — " 

At this point my mother returned and dismissed the 
negro, who did not have a chance to finish his " quis- 
tion," but he had said enough to illustrate that he still 
watched the record of the evil omen. 

" Sammy," began my mother, " I hope to-morrow in 
part to repair the wrong I did when I forbade you meet- 
ing Miss Susie Manley." 

" Miss Susie Manley ? " I asked in surprise. 
383 



Stringtown on the Pike 

"Yes, my son." 

" Explain yourself, mother." 

" The girl known as Susie, the adopted daughter of 
the dissolute Corn Bug, was in reality the child of his 
half-brother, Mr. Manley, who met her mother at a 
Northern watering-place. He kept the matter secret, 
but in some manner Judge Elford learned of it, and at 
once visited that part of New York State to investigate 
the subject. He found that Mr. Manley became in- 
volved in a love affair with this woman and married her 
in secret very soon after the death of his first wife — so 
soon that publicity would have been a reflection on him- 
self and a humiliation to his children. For this reason 
perhaps, absolute secrecy was observed by him. The 
judge states that he acted cruelly, even to leading her to 
believe she was not married, and brutally driving her 
from his door, but that was years ago, and no good to 
the living can come of uncovering those inc' 'ents. The 
sinful man went down to sudden death without having 
done the child justice. Judge Elford found the record 
in New York State clear and perfect, and on his written 
statement, and a legal process as well, the girl has come 
into her own good name and her share of the father's 
fortune. This I did not tell you sooner, knowing that 
you were worried over the case in which you were to be 
a witness. But that professional subject is now off your 
mind, and the future only concerns you." 

" Mother, I thank you for telling me this, but I asked 
no Court record to give me the privilege of loving Susie, 
nor could I love her better had she a hundred birth cer- 
tificates from the Court and from Society. You are too 
late, however, in voicing your good intentions, for the 
girl loved another; he is dead, and I testified against him. 
She will never forgive me — never ! that I well know." 

384 



A Strange Love-Story 

" Susie will dine with us to-morrow ; she has accepted 
my invitation. Cupe brought the note. This is a sur- 
prise that I had in store for you, but for good reasons I 
did not speak of it before receiving her acceptance of my 
invitation." 

" Susie corning here to dine with us ; are you sure of 
it, mother ? " 

" Read her answer." 

" And yet, mother, I cannot believe she will, be pleased 
to have me present. I fear the result of our meeting may 
be painful to both of us." 

" My child, you do not understand women. They 
are not always what they seem to be, nor do they always 
know themselves. Possibly Susie did not love Red-Head 
as you thought she did, and even if it is true, she will 
now turn to another." 

I did not reply, for I was perplexed. My mother was 
not a match-maker, and I felt that she wished only to 
undo a wrong that she had previously done the girl and 
myself. But she did not know all that I knew ; had she 
done so, she would never have arranged a meeting. The 
girl who came to my laboratory in a winter night and 
begged me in behalf of Red-Head to remain away from 
Stringtown, who stood indignant before me when I de- 
clined to do so, who threw into my face the words, " God 
help you, man of science ! " and then left me late at 
night in that storm to seek the old man in the mountains, 
could have no love for me. This my mother did not 
know, or she would never have sought to bring us to- 
gether beneath her roof. 

At the expected hour the next day Susie came. Self- 
possessed as she had always been, no evidence of grief 
or traces of sorrow were on her face. We talked of 
other times, of other lands and of current events. My 
25 385 



Stringtown on the Pike 

mother left the room. But still no word did we utter 
concerning the tragedy through which we had so re- 
cently passed, or of the incidents in which we had taken 
part during the years that were gone. But I thought 
of all these things, and I think she did too, although 
no mention was made of aught that lay nearest my 
heart. 

When the hour for her departure arrived, I turned with 
her into the way that led back through the pasture toward 
her home. On the distant fence sat Cupe awaiting his 
charge, and when he saw us he shuffled on ahead, leav- 
ing us far behind walking together in the meadow. At 
last we stood again in the shade just where we stood once 
before on the crooked narrow path that led through the 
valley ; in the very spot where I had handed her the 
flower that afternoon long ago. Did she think of that 
day ? I cannot say, but I know that I did, and impul- 
sively, as I had done before, I caught her hand. 

" Susie, when we last met in this valley I stood before 
you as I do now, pleadingly, but you begged me as a 
personal favour to ask my mother's permission to finish 
a sentence that I longed to speak, and this request, in a 
moment of weakness, I foolishly granted. I asked her 
consent, as I promised you to do. Yesterday she spoke 
again, and I am now free to say all. For I too have waited 
long." I seized both her hands, pressed them between 
my own palms and told my story. 

She looked down into the grassy path, and replied : 
" I accepted the invitation to your home to-day because 
I wished you to tell me this that I might answer. It is 
now too late. It is now too late." 

" Susie, if it is too late, you have been the cause, 
not I. I loved you then, I love you now. Is a man's 
love so light a thing ? " 

386 



A Strange Love-Story 

" Mr. Drew, I am no coquette, and I have not sacri- 
ficed my womanhood by leading you to express your love 
for me in order to reject it. I have led you to say what 
you have said in order to free you from a hopeless attach- 
ment. This distress I once saved myself by asking you 
to wait, as I knew you must wait if you sought your 
mother's permission to speak. I gave myself this chance, 
for I wanted to say yes ; I hoped that it might some day 
be possible for me to say yes, as you have wished me to. 
But to-day, without any hope whatever, I repeat it is now 
too late." 

" Do you love me, Susie ? " 

" Yes ; I will never love anyone else." She had 
withdrawn her hands from my grasp and stood with 
downcast eye twirling a leaf between her fingers, then it 
dropped on the ground. 

" But you once loved Red-Head ? " 

" As a friend ; misfortune drew us together. We 
were both homeless. He was nobody but Red-Head. I 
was Susie Nobody. Our sufferings and our persecutions 
were in common. What could I do but cling to him 
after that incident in the Stringtown school ? He loved 
me, too, and he also knew that I loved you. Had he not 
been true to the promise I forced from him by reason of 
the love he bore me, long since muscle, and not brain, 
would have won. Had I not pleaded with him, he would, 
years ago, have done you harm, for murder was in his 
heart. I loved you, and I saved you, but I sacrificed 
myself in doing so. This I also wished to say before 
you left Stringtown, for I long to have you think kindly 
of me ; that is why I came to-day to your home, for this 
purpose I am with you now." 

" Susie," I said sadly, " I ask your pardon for the 
words I spoke, for the unjust things I felt. Let the past 

387 



Stringtown on the Pike 

go. Be my wife ; leave Stringtown, with its hateful 
memories; go with me to the North." 

" It is now too late, I say, unless " — then she 
stopped. 

" Unless what ? " 

" Unless I, too, learn to be a chemist and become as 
assured as are you that strychnine killed Mr. Nordman." 

" With your education for a foundation, two sessions 
of special application will be sufficient to accomplish 
you so that you can apply all the tests I used." 

" And will you be my teacher ? " 

" Gladly." 

*' Will you promise to act toward me as though I 
were any other student, to neglect me personally, to 
reprimand me for my awkwardness, and be patient with 
me in my dulness, to speak no word of love ? " 

" Yes, if you will it so." 

" I shall apply for permission to matriculate in your 
University," she replied. " I shall ask to take a special 
course in Chemistry, for that alone is what I need to 
free myself from this suspicion." 

" And when you are convinced of the accuracy of 
the tests I used, will you be mine — my wife, Susie ? " 

" Yes ; I hope it may end that way." 

" It cannot be otherwise. But women are creatures 
of deep prejudices and are often controlled by their 
emotions and not by reason. What if you should not 
be convinced ? " 

"You will need my prayers, and shall have them." 
She slipped her arm into mine, and we walked to her 
home in silence. She understood me, and at last I 
understood her. 

After the parting I retraced my steps toward String- 
town, and when I reached the spot where she stood 

388 



A Strange Love-Story 

between the hills I stopped and picked up the leaf 
dropped at the moment she said, " Never will I love 
another." I placed it carefully in my note-book, and as 
I did so a face came from out the thick bushes that close 
bound the path ; so close was it that I could have 
touched with my finger the intruder. 

" Ma'se Sammy, de spot fo' de sayin' ob yoah lub 
speech wah slubrous, but de bush what meets de lebes 
'bove yoah head wah a bad omen. De leaf yo' hab 
picked up am a hoodoo leaf, et am de leaf ob de witch- 
hazel ; de cunjah woman use et too." 

I saw that Cupe had been concealed in the tangle, 
and had heard our words. " Cupe," I said, " I tell you 
again that I care nothing for your omens and charms. 
Let the witch's leaf work its devilment, Susie and I 
understand each other. You take good care of your 
mistress, and I will answer for the safety of the keepsake 
leaf in my vest pocket." The head of the old negro 
was withdrawn, there was no reply, and again I turned 
toward Stringtown. 



389 



CHAPTER LXIV 

"I CAME TO SAY FAREWELL" 

IN my laboratory in the University on the Hill once 
more I became absorbed in work. The past 
seemed like a dream ; it might have been accepted as a 
dream but for the presence of Susie, who faced me in 
the classroom when I lectured, who patiently bent over 
her desk in the hours of study, and who perseveringly 
stood before her table in the experimental laboratory. 
She came to her work regularly, and attended to her 
studies as persistently as though her ambition centred 
only on the science of chemistry. No word of praise, 
however, did she get from me, for she gave me no 
excuse to speak it ; no chance occurred by which I could 
break my promise of personal neglect ; she would not 
have it, and she knew how to hold me off. Strangers 
were we seemingly to each other, although my coldness 
was not self-sought. I was the weaker of the two, 
much the weaker ; I craved to hold her hand again as I 
did that evening in the path which led through the 
witch-hazel bushes, but she gave me no chance. I 
would surely have broken my vow, I could not have 
helped breaking it, had she but given me a glance such 
as she could have given ; but no glance came ; she was 
not cold, nor yet reserved — no, nor indifferent. The 
same eye that in the valley path led me on to speak of 
my love now held me aloof. I taught her chemistry as 

390 



'' I Came to Say Farewell " 

methodically as I did the others ; only that far could I 
go. No familiar word or pleasantry could I nerve my- 
self to utter. She knew how to control herself and to 
manage me ; she was strong and appreciated her power, 
for more than once when I was determined to ask her to 
reconsider her course and grant my prayer she gazed 
into my face, and then my tongue failed. It was silent 
love on my part, love that made my heart ache and gave 
me greater pain than ever came from out the hate I once 
bore Red-Head. 

There came a day when this girl who gave me no 
word or glance other than that of deep regard told me 
that she had decided to go to Europe for a season. My 
heart sank. We stood alone in the University grounds; 
she had taken the opportunity of our meeting on a by- 
path to tell me. 

" Susie," I replied, " you do not know what I have 
suffered since you came here. You have tantalised me 
beyond endurance ; you know that I worship you, and 
yet you turn me off as if I were made of stone. And 
now you intend to leave for Europe, you who promised 
to be mine when chemistry enough was gained to enable 
you to verify the tests I once made for strychnine." 

" I shall not break my promise." 

" Then you will marry me, Susie ? " 

" When I return I shall come to you, and shall stay 
with you forever, unless — " She paused. 

" Unless what, Susie ? " 

" Unless you need my prayers." 

" Twice have you said that you might have to pray 
for me, Susie. What do you mean ? " 

" That I may not find the test for strychnine as I 
hope to find it. I am deeply troubled, Professor Drew ; 
not cold, not heartless." 

391 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" And if you are not satisfied with my tests ? " 
" More prayers will be needed than you will say, and 
I shall devote my life to offering them." She left me 
standing on the walk meditating over her words, and 
soon thereafter she departed from the University. Cupe, 
who had been her servant in the boarding-house, left, 
too, when she did, but he gave me no parting word. 
He had been very grum since our meeting in the 
thicket ; possibly he was offended over the incident con- 
cerning that leaf of witch-hazel which I refused to throw 
away. 

Another year passed. Premature grey hairs were 
reflected from my mirror, for my beard and hair, too, 
were touched with frost. My mother slept in the 
Stringtown churchyard. I had learned to act the careless 
man, to cover my heartache, to smile and say idle words 
to women who led me to speak them ; to throw back 
the laugh into the face of the man who lightly touched 
upon my bachelor life. But these were superficialities, 
beneath which throbbed an earnest heart longing for the 
breaking of the dawn which would bring Susie back, for, 
with the fanaticism of a fatalist, I felt she surely would 
return. 

I sat alone in my room one evening in December. 
A flood of painful reflections came over me, and as was 
my wont when possessed by melancholy, I arose and 
paced the room back and forth. But as this brought no 
relief, I next muffled myself and started to the laboratory 
to brush away the torture of thought by means of the 
diversion that work afforded, for I had learned that work 
alone could crush these pangs. It was not unusual for 
me thus to pass my evenings, and the janitor gave him- 
self no concern when he observed a light in my private 

392 



'^I Came to Say Farewell" 

rooms. But I could not smother my heartache in 
study. Again, as I had done that memorable night when 
Susie came to plead for the life of my rival, I threw up 
the window and leaned out into the blackness. The 
trunks of the trees beneath me could be seen where they 
cut the rays of light from a feeble lamp, but their arms 
above were lost in the gloom. A soft wind laden with 
moisture was blowing from the south, and it also bore 
misty drops, not yet heavy enough to be called rain, but 
still denser than fog. These beat against my skin, and 
were very pleasant to my heated face. A sigh came 
from the direction of the two briar-clad graves ; it rose 
and fell as did the breeze, keeping time to the wind that 
blew through the leafless branches. 

Suddenly there was the sound of footsteps on the 
gravel walk and someone rang the bell. 

" Open the door; it is not locked. Follow the halls 
to my room, No. 13 ; you need not knock," I called, 
and turned again to my thoughts. 

" May I come in, Professor Drew," and I turned to 
meet Susie, who stood in the doorway. Springing up, I 
caught her hand and drew her into the room, while 
close following came Cupe, who remained standing 
while we seated ourselves beside my table-desk. 

" At last you are here again, Susie," I broke out 
ardently ; " I have waited so long for your return ; you 
come now to stay until death parts us." 

She shook her head. " To-morrow," she said sadly, 
" I must return to Kentucky. To-night you look upon 
Susie for the last time. Mr. Drew, I came to say 
farewell." 

" Girl," I cried, starting up excitedly ; " you will 
drive me mad. I have been led to hope and have then 
been heart-wrecked, until I now am desperate. You 

39^ 



Stringtown on the Pike 

thrust the knife into my heart while yet I was a boy, 
and then you held me off and turned it just enough to 
wrack my soul. Now I tear it out and cast you off." 

She, too, arose, and stood with downcast face, while I 
turned and paced back and forth across the floor. 

" Go ! " I said fiercely, and pointed to the door ; " both 
of you." Neither girl nor negro moved, both remained 
standing, and at last, relenting somewhat, I stepped close 
to Susie, and in a low tone said : 

" Do not look into my face ; turn your eyes the 
other way, for I fear their touch. Tell me what it is 
that brings you here to-night." 

" I have already said that I came to bid you farewell, 
Mr. Drew, and to add that wherever you may be in 
future you shall have my prayers. I go to kneel and to 
work, to do whatever good one feeble woman can in the 
path that leads to final peace." 

" I do not understand you." I spoke more gently. 

" Nor can you. When I left this school I hoped to 
return to give you my love and become your wife. But 
I cannot marry a — " she stopped short. 

"A what, Susie?" 

" Do not ask me, for I cannot tell you." She cov- 
ered her face with her hands. 

" I demand it." 

" Sit down, Professor Drew, and be patient. I will 
tell my story, and then you may supply the missing 
word." 



394 



CHAPTER LXV 

" YOU HAVE FOUGHT AND I HAVE LOVED " 

" "VTEED I repeat the story of our first meeting, how 
-*-^ with bleeding feet and sheet-white face you 
ran into our cabin that night many years ago ? Never 
since have I failed to see you when I closed my eyes 
and thought of that incident, which Cupe and Dinah 
took care I should not forget. They kept your name 
in my mind, yours and that of Red-Head, I was taught 
that a spell linked us three together; faithful were the 
two negroes to their superstitions, in which I too be- 
lieved, for I was not less ignorant than themselves ; 
then came the journey to Canada, which I recall vividly, 
although I was a little child. The movements of the 
old slaves that night, the chaining of Red-Head to the 
wall, the departure from the old cabin and the pathetic 
farewell to the graves behind it, seem strangely real to 
me yet ; but let that pass. In my new home, near 
Quebec, I was baptised into the Catholic Church, and 
Cupe, too, learned to conform to the sacred ceremonies 
— for this the Lord be thanked. A miracle was it that 
led me from that Kentucky cabin to the holy portals of 
Saint Anne. I was young, it is true, and knew not the 
meaning of all I heard in that sacred spot ; but the seeds 
of truth were sown, and young yet was I when one day 
we left that land of snow, as Cupe said, to find for me 
my name. I could tell a dramatic story of a toxic 

395 



Stringtown on the Pike 

potion that a Kentucky man, my father, was forced to 
drink soon after we entered the State. He pleaded and 
struggled and fought to escape the ordeal test, and, re- 
fusing still to grant my birthright, passed into the death 
struggles ; but no good can come of reviving that 
incident. 

" At last we were settled again in our cabin home, 
and then you came and stepped across the conjured 
threshold. Cupe and Dinah whispered about you after 
you left, and Dinah made another conjure for you as she 
had done before. Then came the incident in the String- 
town school and the cruel words of Jennie Manley. 
You remember the part Red-Head took that day ; need 
I repeat it ; need I remind you that, leaning on his arm, 
I left that school for ever ? Red-Head and I were 
thrown much into the company of each other thereafter ; 
no other friend had I, no girl companions, no sister's 
love, no woman's counsel, no mother to offer words to 
guide me. A negro-bred child was I ; superstition came 
with every breeze from without and every whisper from 
within the cabin ; and the hatred Red-Head bore you 
came also into my life to disturb me. But I yet read 
and studied of other things ; my mind unfolded as my 
form developed, and you know that, thanks to Mr. 
Wagner and yourself, I received a good education 
abroad. Finally you came again, as you may well re- 
member, for it was the night you fought Red-Head in 
my presence — as I never can forget." 

" Tell me, Susie," I interrupted, " why did you give 
me one of the roses and say that the other was for Red- 
Head ? " 

" Because I was a girl ; there is no other reason, 
there need be no other. For the once I teased you, bu^ 
I was a girl." 

39^ 



''You have Fought, &c." 

" You placed that reserved rose on my picture, 
however." 

*•' I thought of you only. I say, forgive me." 

« Go on." 

" Then came the question you asked when we stood 
in the path in the valley, and then I did not do my duty. 
I led myself to hope against hope. I should have said 
no positively, but in a moment of weakness I deferred 
the painful parting, in the hope that it might not be 
necessary. Do you know that when I sought you in 
this room to beg you to keep away from the Court of 
Stringtown County, I came prepared to tell you of my 
good name and to say yes, had you asked me to be 
yours ? " 

" You do not mean it, Susie ? " 

" Surely, I was then aware of my birthright, and had 
you not turned from me, had you not crushed my heart 
by your coldness, had you sacrificed but a trifle of your 
ambition for the love of your fellow-man, I would have 
told you all. But you chilled me by refusing my simple 
request, and I left you, for I had promised Red-Head to 
carry a message into the mountains ; you know the rest, 
you know the result. I kneeled beside the dead boy, 
dead because of you and me, and then arose and linked 
my arm in yours to help Judge Elford protect you from 
the men about you. When I bade you farewell that 
night. Professor Drew, we had approached the parting 
of the way. 

" Now the time has arrived for me to bid you fare- 
well again, and for ever ; never again will we walk arm- 
in-arm or meet on the same path." She wrung her 
hands, but did not weep. Tears might have eased her 
heartache, but no tears came. Suddenly she stopped 
before me. 

397 



Stringtown on the Pike 

" You do not know what it is to live a tainted life- 
course. You cannot comprehend the sufferings of those 
who long for a touch of kindness from humanity, but 
who meet instead the scorn of men and women. Oh ! 
the misery of a hungry heart. I had done no crime, no 
stain was on my life record, yet no friendly word came 
to me from girls of my age, only glances that made me 
shrink and creep back into the wilds. A woman longs 
for love ; if a woman is happy, she must be loved." 

" But I loved you, Susie, and you repulsed me." 

" For your own sake did I do so. You did not know 
what you asked, but I saw the danger you were in. 
Better be dead than disgraced ; this my own experience 
taught. My love for you was too deep to permit me to 
bring to you ruin." 

" Susie, had you married me, the taint, had there been 
any, would have been brushed away. You are super- 
sensitive, you magnify those things that have been close 
to you. You have wronged us both, Susie ; you should 
have married me and let me care for your future." 

" Had I done so Red-Head would have shot you dead. 
You might have been mine no longer than a day. I 
saved your life as well as your good name by asking you 
to wait ; I knew more than you knew then, and of these 
things I know more than you do now. I did not say no ; 
I only asked you to wait, Mr. Drew." 

" But now you can say yes. Red-Head is dead, and 
no stain of birth rests on you, Susie." 

I read in her face the story of despair ; there was no 
cry of anguish — none was needed — for voice could 
not have carried the heart touch imparted by that look. 

'' You once made a pledge, Susie, as I did ; and these 
two pledges were recorded when we both were young 
and foresaw not the future. The penniless Stringtown 

398 



<'You have Fought, 8cc." 

boy could not discern the independent man who was yet 
to be, nor could the outcast girl divine that in a day to 
come, her name would be the same as that of the proud- 
est man in Stringtown County. And yet these very 
things have come to pass. You were looking forward, 
hoping against the impossible, to a time when the unjust 
taint that saddened your heart vyould be removed ; I was 
wishing for honours and position which seemed improb- 
able. Those youthful pledges were blunders ; let us 
bury them." 

She shook her head. 

" Susie, an oath is no more sacred, if it be the output 
of a foolish heart or of inexperience in the affairs of men 
or of error of judgment, than a child's empty promise. 
You were a foolish girl, I a silly boy ; the oath of each 
was an error. Now when these absurd errors of both 
heart and intellect can be seen, is it right that our lives 
should be further sacrificed ? Rather, is it not a duty 
that we should make amends for the crime we have done 
in fostering this stupid fanaticism, which has kept us 
apart in the past and bids fair now to wreck our future?" 

But she made no answer. 

" What is the object of life, Susie ? To rise in the 
morning and go to rest at night, to plan and scheme and 
work ! To laugh a little, smile a little. To speak a 
kind word or say a harsh one, to lighten the heartache 
of a fellow-man, or make his life more bitter ! To 
make amends for errors, to fight, to love ! " 

She raised her eyes. " You have fought, and I have 
loved," and again her eyes drooped. 

Then abruptly she asked : " Will you give me back 
the little box I handed you that night in the cabin in 
order that you might keep in mind the fact that I too 
had made a pledge ? " 

399 



Stringtown on the Pike 

I drew from an inner pocket the tin box ; it had 
never left me. 

" And must I give this up ? " 

"Yes; no man has the right to such a keepsake as that 
from a woman in the place where I am soon to be." 

I opened the box and drew from it a lock of black 
hair. 

" Can I not keep this lock of hair ? " 

She reached out her hand, but I hesitated and made no 
motion to return the box. " The keepsake was only 
loaned you, Mr. Drew." 

I pressed the tress to my lips and then gently laid it 
across her palm. As I did so the empty, coffin-shaped 
box fell upon the floor. Old Cupe shuffled forward and 
picked it up. 

" De shape am gruesome, Ma'se Drew. Yo' p'r'aps 
memberlec' dat Cupe pinted t' de shape ob dis box de 
night he han' et t' yo'. But de sign am fool sign, yo' 
know." 

" All signs are fool signs." 

" P'r'aps yo' memberlec' dat yo' shake de han' ob 
Cupe 'cross de doah-sill dat night, too. Guess dat fool 
sign hab 'scaped yoah min'." He stepped back into the 
shadows. 

Then Susie resumed : " And this reminds me that I 
am not here to argue over things that might have been ; 
and reminds me also that I have not told you why I 
came to-night. Listen. You applied the colour test for 
strychnine, and on that test Judge Elford gave the 
charge that led to the death of poor Red-Head." 

« Yes." 

" Laudanum was administered to Mr. Nordman be- 
fore the physician came," 

"Yes; I found morphine too, but no other alkaloid." 
400 



"You have Fought, 8cc/' 

" Professor Drew, are you aware that Mr. Nord- 
man took his usual bitters before partaking of his 
breakfast ? " 

" And what of that ? Has not a Kentucky gentle- 
man the right to take his dram before breakfast ? " 

" Are you aware that it was a tonic made of wild 
cherry bark, golden seal root, and whiskey ? " 

I saw that while the girl had not yet unfolded her 
scheme she was driving me to a corner. Suddenly we 
became antagonists. 

"Why did you come here to-night," I said. " Have 
you not done enough of wickedness in wrecking my 
past life ? But for you Red-Head would have gone 
back to the mountains." 

" I repeat, Mr. Drew, the tonic Mr. Nordman drank 
was made of golden seal root, wild cherry bark, and 
whiskey." 

" The fact, if it be fact, has nothing to do with the 
strychnine," I sneered. " That is a very common tonic 
in Kentucky. 

" Golden seal contains a colourless, innocent alkaloid." 

I stood so near that I could easily have touched her. 
Her eye was fixed on mine, and I felt its force when 
she spoke that name, golden seal. I saw now, too, the 
end of her argument, and that she proposed to claim 
that I had mistaken this substance for strychnine. 

" I '11 squeeze her pretty throat," I thought to myself. 
" The love of other men has suddenly changed to 
hatred ; for less than this other men have strangled 
women they held dear." I raised my hand ; the mus- 
cles of my wrists were fixed, the fingers claw-like ; the 
devil possessed me when I lifted my arm against that 
defenceless girl. 

But a black face came now between us, a black hand 

26 401 



Stringtown on the Pike 

pushed the girl back. " De gearl am but a chile, Ma'se 
Samuel ; lis'n t' de chile." 

Thrusting the negro off, I attempted to reach again 
for the throat of Susie, who, making no movement, 
stood seemingly undisturbed. Then I was looking into 
the muzzle of a pistol. " Yo' 'blege de nigger t' keer 
fo' de chile ; better yo' let her go on wid de story an' 
den go back t' Kaintuck. Cupe am monstrous suah yo' 
caint hurt de chile." 

There was no effort to sham action. I knew that 
the negro would shoot before I could harm his charge. 
My arm dropped and the watchful guardian slunk 
back. Then Susie continued : 

" Golden seal, I said." She looked me in the eye, 
awaiting my answer. 

" Even if this is so, that substance is not a poison, 
nor does it give the strychnine poison test." 

She took from her pocket a small vial containing a 
white powder. " Will you test that powder for strych- 
nine ? " 

I turned to my reagents, always convenient in this 
laboratory, and applied the test. The blue-violet colour 
of strychnine sprang into existence. " It contains strych- 
nine," I said with some agitation. 

" It does not." 

" Susie, that is strychnine. I have sworn to it be- 
fore, and now reaffirm my statement, but I add to it 
the further oath, as in this very room I have done be- 
fore. My reputation is at stake. If that he not strych- 
nine my life goes out" 

" Please do not think of violence. I beg you to do 
no harm to yourself. I, too, made a pledge that night, 
a silent vow, and am now on my way to begin its fulfil- 
ment. Now I seek you to release you from thought of 

402 




« H 



SI 



"You have Fought, &c." 

me, not to judge you further. This I promised you to 
do. My object is but to show you that I must go else- 
, where than with you. Put up the weapon, Cupe. Pro- 
fessor Drew would not harm me." 

I was silenced. Again I tested the powder, first 
for alkaloids, then for strychnine, and again the char- 
acteristic colour appeared. " It surely contains some 
strychnine." 

" No trace of strychnine, Mr. Drew, I assure you. 
Under these conditions, your test is at fault. I believed 
you were wrong when you testified before the Court. 
I knew that Red-Head told no lie. You swore by your 
tubes and glasses, but I believed in the word of a human 
being in whom I trusted. You were a great chemist, 
I a weak girl. You powerful, I helpless. And yet I 
was right and you were wrong." 

" And so you assert," I continued, " that strychnine 
was not present ? " 

" Alas, yes ! You have but to properly mix hydrastine 
and morphine to obtain the colour reaction of strychnine, 
although neither will give it alone. These two sub- 
stances vou admit were present in the material you 
tested, do you not ? " 

« I do." 

She held out her hand. " Good-bye, Professor Drew. 
I shall leave you now ; at your leisure in daylight you 
may verify my statement." 

" Where are you going, Susie ? " 

" Where neither taint of birth nor dishonour rests on 
any soul ; where purity of heart and love of God are 
one and inseparable ; where ascend the prayers of those 
who live not for themselves, but to work in humanity's 
behalf. If from this peaceful Mother Home I go out 
into the world, it shall be to serve mankind, and when 

403 



Stringtown on the Pike 

the life-work to which I devote myself henceforth is 
done, my body will rest in the blessed home of the 
dead, where cluster others who live to love, and pray 
and die in Nazareth. But while I live you shall not 
want for prayers, my brother." She extended her 
hand. '' Bid Susie farewell for ever." 

She turned to the door, and then my self-possession 
deserted me. Leaping forward, clasping her arm with 
both hands, I held her back. " Come back, my dear 
one," I cried ; " you have no right to bury yourself 
alive ; you can live with me, and yet pray for me, and 
serve mankind and God, too, by living in the world." 

Then uprose the words Judge Elford once had spoken, 
a prophecy now : " Such a lovely creature must be holier 
and lovelier if blossomed untarnished in heaven." 

She dropped her eyes, and I saw a tear glisten and 
then roll from her half-closed lashes. 

" I cannot. The pledge is made." Still I held her 
hands. 

" Thank God for the one tear you have shed, Susie. " 

Preceded by Cupe, she moved into the dimly lighted 
hall and then drew her arm from my grasp, passing 
onward until by an angle both were shut from my sight. 
And then I stepped to the front window, threw it up 
and again leaned out. From toward the left, where slept 
old Scroggins and his sister, came the weird song that 
the night sometimes sings ; it rose as my wild heart- 
cry had done, and died into nothingness, as had my 
fruitless pleadings. From beneath me just then two 
forms passed into the feeble light of the gas-lamp and 
next were swallowed in the darkness beyond. 



404 



CHAPTER LXVI 

*' TO WHAT HAS AMBITION LED ? " 

I CANNOT say how long I leaned out of the 
window. My heart was desolate. That mournful 
tune of the wind and the two forms that vanished in the 
night as the sad refrain wore out were companion pieces 
which by eye and ear carried despair to my soul. But 
at last I did turn back and closed the window. On the 
table stood that vial of white powder and beside it also 
the dishes used in testing it. 

To my mind came the fearful oath I made to Susie 
when I affirmed that strychnine surely existed in that 
test case. " I know potions which leave no mark and 
yet do their work promptly. If this be not strychnine 
my life goes out." I turned to my locked cupboard, in 
which were to be found my most valued and rarest 
specimens. Opening it, I took therefrom a wide- 
mouthed bottle containing a quantity of small plant 
bulbs and a letter. Removing the letter, I replaced the 
bottle of bulbs, and turning the key, seated myself before 
my desk. Unfolding the letter, which was post-marked 
in a certain part of Arkansas, I read as follows : 

My dear Professor Drew : By mail to-day I send you a 
plant which grows in this section and a few bulbs from the 
same species. These possess remarkable powers. Three 
children recently ate of them and died slowly and painlessly. 
They retained possession of their full mental powers to the last. 

405 



Stringtown on the Pike 

My efforts to relieve them were aseless. I have tried the 
tincture of the bulbs on rabbits ; they became languid, seemed 
not to suffer at all, but slowly wasted away. At last they quietly 
went to sleep and did not awaken. In the same manner the 
children died. Please give me the name of the plant, and also 
investigate its constituents. 

Sincerely yours. 



The name of the writer I suppress ; he is a reputable 
physician. Across the face of the letter in my own 
writing I find recorded : " Too dangerous a drug to 
be made known through science to the public." Twist- 
ing the letter, I touched it to the flame, watching it 
burn to the last spark, and then I turned off the gas 
and went home. The next day I asked William, my 
assistant, to remain after school hours, saying that I 
had a powder to investigate. Together we applied the 
strychnine colour test, to which it responded. Then 
pure white alkaloid of Golden seal and pure morphine 
were separately tested, no blue-violet colour occurring 
with either. Mixed in proper proportion (one part 
of the alkaloid to four of morphine), the reaction of 
strychnine asserted itself. 

I said to my assistant : " Bring me the reserved por- 
tion of the material we tested in the Stringtown poisoning 
case." 

He went to the basement and returned with it. This 
substance we also tested, with the former result. The 
next day we purified the crystals, and by appropriate 
method, now that I had an inkling of the nature of the 
mixture, I separated the alkaloids. No strychnine was 
present. 

'* I can supply the word Susie did not speak when 
she refused to finish a sentence, William." 

406 



"To What has Ambition Led" 

" What word : " 

" Never mind. I shall do my duty." I opened my 
private locker, and took the bottle containing the bulbs. 
" William, crush these bulbs in the iron mortar, add 
alcohol, make a tincture of them. Be very careful ; 
this makes a powerful potion. William," I added, " I 
shall be very busy for a time writing a work which I 
wish to complete within three months. I shall consider 
it a favour if during that period you will assume all 
possible details of the laboratory. You may leave me 
now ; I wish to begin." 

PVom that day I spent my spare time at my desk. 
I lived my life over and passed again through the scenes 
which concerned me in my boyhood. And each day, 
with the cold determination of a fatalist who had sworn 
to do an act of justice, I took ten drops of the tincture 
made of the bulbs from Arkansas. From day to day 
I grew weaker, but suffered no pain. My friends were 
at last alarmed. I gracefully submitted to the closest 
examination that the medical profession could make, but 
no fault could be found with any organ. No specialist 
could discover an abnormal condition. Still, I lost 
strength, flesh, and energy. At last I kept to my room, 
and then became confined to my bed. Wise old Doctor 
Smith thought he knew everything, but I smiled at his 
lack of knowledge in this case. He was a professional 
man of attainments, — la scientific man, and we were 
both taking a lesson of our master, empiricism. At last 
he declared that his tonics and stimulants had on me no 
more effect than water ; and then I asked : " Doctor, 
how long will I last if no sudden change for the worse 
occurs ? Do not be afraid to tell me. Doctor. I knew 
ten weeks ago that your remedies could not avail in my 
case." 

407 



Stringtown on the Pike 

"Professor, you will surely last two weeks," he replied. 
"What puzzles me, however, is that you have no symp- 
tom of disease, no pain, no loss of appetite, no fever, no 
delirium, no depression. Your temperature is normal, 
your heart-beats strong and full ; you are well in every 
way, but are slowly wasting." 

" I have been declining for ten weeks," I answered. 
" But death like this is pleasant ; at least, it would be to 
one whose mind is free from remorse. Will you do me 
the favour to send William to me. Doctor," I asked, 
" and at once ? " 

" It is useless to attempt to deceive you ; too well 
you appreciate your condition," replied the physician. 
" I shall send William, and to-morrow will call as usual, 
hoping that this last prescription will effect a change." 
I smiled in reply, and the wise man left me. 

" Be seated, William," I said when he came ; " I 
have a favour to ask of you and a story to tell. But 
before beginning, lock the door : we must not be dis- 
turbed. Now, open that drawer, take from it the 
package of manuscript, put it on the table and after 
this interview, in detail at your leisure record and add to 
the manuscript the substance of this interview. Draw 
your chair closer to my bedside, for talking exhausts one 
as weak as I am." 

Here ends the manuscript as written by the hand of 
Professor Drew. J. U. L. 



408 



CHAPTER LXVII 

THE MUSIC AND THE VOICE DIE OUT FOREVER 

MANY of the residents of Northern Kentucky can 
recall the familiar form of old Cupe, a black 
man who, with violin in hand, during the summer 
months wandered about that section of the State. His 
garments were of many colours and patterns, and were 
abundantly and curiously patched. Old and feeble was 
he, queer in action and shrewd in tongue, but polite to a 
fault. To one man he would give a curt question, to 
another a shrewd reply or a comical side remark, but 
always would he ask of each : " Hab yo' seed de Susie 
chile sense I gwine dis way ? " or, " Hab de deah Susie 
chile gwine yoah way ? " Some considered him a pro- 
fessional vagrant, others thought him demented, although 
there were people who knew that he was searching for 
his life charge, who disappeared from Stringtown seem- 
ingly without bidding any one farewell. It was gener- 
ally accepted that the childishness of age had touched 
him, and all agreed that the demented old man was 
harmless. 

Three days before the close of the Period of Retreat 
at beautiful Nazareth, in Kentucky, the Mother Home 
of the patient Sisters of Charity, the form of old Cupe 
might have been seen advancing along the road from 
the village of Bardstown. Reaching the entrance to the 
grounds that surround the quiet building which shelters 

409 



Stringtown on the Pike 

those self-sacrificing women, whose greatest pleasure 
lies In doing charity in the world, and in praying for the 
betterment of mankind, he passed the entrance and 
reached the broad avenue that leads to the central build- 
ing. Passing along this, he came to a lane which led to 
the right and terminated before an uplifted cross bearing 
the form of the Saviour, while at its base were many 
rows of modest white tombstones. The old man bent 
the knee, as is the wont of all good Catholics before a 
sacred shrine (although he was not a Catholic), and then 
passed on toward the house before him. It was the 
hour of five, the hour for closing the service in the little 
chapel which nestled to the right of the great home 
building. From out the front door came now the good 
Sisters in their sable dress and white caps ; silently they 
scattered over the grounds, each absorbed in meditation. 
The negro stepped to the side of the elm-flanked road, 
took off his tattered hat, and with bent form stood as 
silent as were the nuns who passed in pairs and in groups. 
The eyes of a few were raised as they met his shadow 
on the drive, but they dropped at once; still the major- 
ity moved on without making any recognition whatever 
of the presence of the lonely man who had entered that 
sanctuary. Then along the path came one of the throng 
whose face arrested the gaze of the negro. His torn hat 
now dropped to the ground, the hickory cane fell from 
his nervous grasp, and then he kneeled on the gravel 
with eyes riveted on the girl. Raising his arms, he ex- 
tended them toward the silent woman, " Susie." 

Hearing the voice, she raised her eyes and caught 
sight of the intruder. A sudden start, a step toward the 
kneeling man, a reaching out of her arms, and then, as 
could be seen, by a strong mental effort her form re- 
sumed its normal position, her eyes dropped again to the 

410 



The Music and the Voice, &c. 

ground, and she too passed on, and walked through the 
lane that led toward the crucifix. 

The negro arose and remained standing by the edge 
of the gravel roadbed, until the silent Sisters retraced 
their steps, but this time the face he knew so well passed 
him by, no upturned eye met his look, no faltering step 
nor outstretched arm ; and as night fell the aged wan- 
derer turned and left the sacred grounds. 

The next afternoon the old man again stood beside the 
avenue at the very junction of the path, again he kneeled 
and held out his arms toward the sweet-faced girl, and 
imploringly called her name ; but this time she made no 
recognition of his presence. True to her vow, with- 
standing temptation — for this friend of other days stirred 
her emotions to the heart-depths — she passed, and turned 
back to leave him in the gloom of evening standing, vio- 
lin in hand, as before. But the next afternoon the Re- 
treat of Silence ended, for the eight days of prayer and 
meditation had passed, and then the faithful nuns came 
out of the church talking with one another, and free to 
speak with whomsoever they met. And now the girl 
called Susie sought at once the spot where the negro 
stood ; she held out both her hands, and burst into tears. 

" And is this dear old Cupe ? " 

" Et am Cupe. He hab trabelled up an' down, up 
an' down, lookin' fo' de Susie chile." 

" Susie no longer, Cupe ; no longer the Susie you 
knew in the world." 

" Yo' am walkin' an' talkin' an' yo' hab de same 
sweet face." 

" Tell me of Aunt Dinah." 

" She am pow'ful weak, an' sits in de ole cabin waitin' 
fo' Susie ; an' each time when Cupe come up de walk an' 
look in de doah she say, ' Wha' am de Susie chile ? ' 

411 



Stringtown on the Pike 

An' den Cupe say to hisse'f, ' Go back, ole Cupe, an' 
walk up an' down till de gearl am foun'.' " 

" Did you get the money I placed with Judge Elford 
to care for you and Dinah during your lives ? " 

" Et am all safe waitin' fo' de Susie gearl t' come 
back an' spen' et." 

" That can never be, Cupe." 

*' An' caint yo' go back wid de ole man ? " 

" No ; this is my home, and that lane leads to my 
final resting-place. Never yet did one of my sisters 
break her vow, nor shall I. Go back to Dinah, Cupid, 
say to her that Susie is no longer a part of the world." 

He thrust his hands into the mass of rags in which he 
was clothed, and took out a purse well filled with bills. 
" Yo '11 honah de ole man by takin' de money." 

" Is this part of the money I left with Judge Elford to 
support you and Dinah ? " 

"Et am." 

" Carry it to Dinah. I have no need of money ; I 
am comfortable." 

" An' mus' de ole man go home alone an' say t' 
Dinah de dear gearl '11 nebbah come back t' de cabin ? " 

« Yes." 

" Could n't Cupe an' Dinah come t' a cabin h'ar'bout 
an' lib wha' dey kin see de big house yo' libs in ? Et 
'ud be monstrous soovin' t' de ole man." 

" No, Cupe ; bid me good-bye and go home to 
Dinah." 

" Please, Missus Susie, yo' needn't feah no troub'l ; 
Cupe '11 jes come down t' de walk in de ebenin' an' stan' 
by de side ob de road, an' he won't say nuffin' t' boddah 
yo'. Yo' may pass up an' down, an' Cupe '11 look 
on yoah sweet face, an' den tu'n 'bout an' go back t' 
Dinah." 

412 



The Music and the Voice, Sec. 

" I am with you always, I love you as much as ever. 
But you must not come here to live. Go back to Dinah 
and be happy in the old cabin." 

"An' dis am de end," he muttered, " de end ob de 
walkin' up an' down, an' up an' down." Then he 
added : " Ef yo'll be de one t' say good-bye, an' '11 let de 
ole man stan' heah fo' a bit t'-night, dah won't be no 
cause t' scold him, fo' in de mahn'n he'll be walkin' 
back t' Stringtown. Honey chile, he wants t' stan' 
heah till de sun goes down, till de da'kness settles obah 
de Ian' an' obah de house what shets yo' up ferebah." 

" Good-bye, Cupe, my dear old Cupe," said the sweet- 
faced Sister. She pressed his black, wrinkled hands be- 
tween her white palms, while the tears trickled down her 
cheeks. Then she turned and left him standing where 
the cemetery path joins the great elm avenue which leads 
down to Nazareth. 

The shadows settled as fall the shades of summer's 
evening in this midland between the North and the 
South. The mournful cry of the whippoorwill, that 
strange bird of night, arose from out an old elm to the 
right, and from the left came the answer. Then rang 
the bell that summoned the nuns to prayer and repose, 
and soon thereafter, throughout the great house, each 
light went out. And now occurred a thing unknown 
before in Nazareth. From near to where moaned the 
gloom-birds a soft strain of music floated onto the air 
and into the windows of the nuns' silent house. The 
melody was that of a single violin, its tone so plaintive 
that it thrilled each listener with a sense of sadness. 
The good Father in the little house to the right stepped 
to the door ; seemingly heaven was sighing to some one 
in that great bank of buildings, where all was dark and 
still. Then a husky voice, which, wordless to all but 

413 



Stringtown on the Pike 

one, seemed scarcely human, arose and blended in the 
melody ; but to that one of the listening nuns it breathed 
a familiar refrain : 

Yo' ax what make dis darkey weep, 

Why he, like uddahs am not gay ; 
What make de teahs roll down his cheek 

From early dawn till broke ob day ? 

The music and the voice died out forever; the moon 
cast the elm trees' shadows across the vacant avenue 
where stood the mourning singer ; once more arose the 
cry of the night-bird. 



THE END 



414 



RARE BOOK 
COLLECTION 




THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

AT 

CHAPEL HILL 

Wilmer 
718 





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